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THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 

[ GANDHIJFS  NOAXHALI  PILGRIMAGE] 


BY 

MANUBAHEN  GANDHI 


NAVAJIVAN  PUBLISHING  HOUSE 
AHMED  AB  AD-14 


BOOKS  BY  GANDHIJI 


Rs.P. 

An  Autobiography 

(De  luxe  Edition) 

7.00 

(Standard  ,,  ) 

4.00 

(Popular  „  ) 

2.00 

(Abridged  „  ) 

2.00 

(School  ,,  ) 

1.50 

All  Men  Are  Brothers 

3.00 

Basic  Education 

1.00 

Co-operation 

0.75 

Co-operative  Farming 

0.20 

Democracy:  Real  &  Deceptive 

0.80 

Economic  &  Industrial  Life 

&  Relations,  3  Vols. 

10.50 

Gift  of  Gold 

0.40 

Khadi 

3.00 

Letters  to  Manibahen  Patel 

1.00 

My  Non-violence 

5.00 

Nature  Cure 

0.75 

Satyagraha 

4.00 

Selections  from  Gandhi 

2.00 

Stonewalls  Do  not  a  Prison 

Make 

2.50 

The  Law  &  the  Lawyers 

3.00 

The  Problem  of  Education 

3.50 

The  Way  to  Communal 

Harmony 

8.00 

To  the  Students 

3.00 

Towards  New  Education 

1.00 

True  Education 

3.50 

Village  Swaraj 

3.00 

Women 

1.00 

Women  and  Social  Injustice 

2.00 

Postage  etc.  extra 

Navajivan  Trust,  Ahmedabad-14 


Digitized  by  the  Internet  Archive 
in  2017  with  funding  from 
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The  Lonely  Pilgrim 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 

[GANDHIJI’S  NOAKHALI  PILGRIMAGE] 


The  original  in  Gujarati 
BY 

MANUBAHEN  GANDHI 


* 


NAVAJIVAN  PUBLISHING  HOUSE 
AHMED  ABAD  - 14 


First  Edition,  3,000  Copies,  August  1964 

Rs.  3 


©  The  Navajivan  Trust,  1964 


Printed  and  Published  by  Jivanji  Dahyabhai  Desai 
Navajivan  Press,  Ahmedabad-14 


PREFACE 


Humanity,  basically,  is  one  integral  whole,  but 
various  nations,  communities  and  groups  centre  round 
different  religious  thought,  social  customs  and  modes 
of  behaviour,  thus  forming  divers  units  which  some¬ 
times  clash  with  one  another.  The  fiercest  dissension 
and  violence  occur  when  one  concourse  of  men  smarts 
under  injustice  done  to  it  by  another  and  tries  to 
remove  it. 

To  date,  the  chief  means,  i.e.  that  of  violence  has 
been  used  to  redress  such  wrongs  done  to  them.  But 
experience  shows  that  the  method  of  violence  does 
not  actually  rectify  the  injustice.  There  is  only  a  sem¬ 
blance  of  its  removal  and  that  too  for  a  short  time, 
as  injustice  persists  in  other  guises;  or,  like  the 
phoenix,  arises  from  its  ashes  reborn. 

Man  is  so  constituted  that  differences  in  view¬ 
points,  beliefs,  faiths  etc.,  as  well  as  conflicts,  arising 
out  of  them,  are  bound  to  take  place.  Unless  these 
differences  and  conflicts  are  resolved,  society,  as  a 
whole,  will  not  be  able  to  go  its  way  in  peace.  We 
can  go  one  further  and  say  that,  just  as  it  is  human 
nature  to  form  fighting  units,  so  also  it  is  equally  able 
to  bring  about  unity  in  diversity  and  to  adjust  diffe¬ 
rences.  But  if  violence  has  been  the  only  means  to  settle 
disputes,  its  lack  of  success  in  achieving  its  object 
has  been  proved  time  and  again. 


in 


IV 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


The  problem  facing  mankind  today  is  whether 
there  is  any  effective  substitute  for  violence  to  do  away 
with  injustice,  and  bridge  the  gap  caused  by  diffe¬ 
rences  and  antagonisms. 

Love  and  non-violent  methods  have  been  success¬ 
fully  tried  in  the  past  to  smooth  away  frictions  and 
tussles  between  individuals  and  small  groups  of  men. 
But  there  is  no  reference  in  history  to  substantiate  the 
fact  that  non-violence  was  successfully  used  to  resolve 
the  conflicts  between  two  large  masses  of  men.  It  was 
Gandhiji  who  first  carried  on  a  lifelong  sadhana*  to 
implement  the  idea  of  the  use  of  non-violence  or  love 
for  the  removal  of  injustice  on  a  wholesale  basis.  To 
settle  both  internal  differences  and  squabbles  in  Hindu 
society  as  well  as  the  unjust  relationship  that  existed 
between  the  British  and  Indians,  he  showed  how  non¬ 
violence  could  be  successfully  employed.  It  can  be 
truthfully  said  that  it  was  his  life’s  mission  to  give  a 
practical  demonstration  to  humanity  of  the  fact  that 
non-violence  or  love,  so  essential  to  prove  the  oneness 
of  mankind,  was  the  only  sure  means  to  right  wrongs 
done  even  to  large  masses  of  men. 

During  the  pursuit  of  this,  his  ordained  mission, 
dissensions  between  the  two  limbs — the  Hindu  and 
the  Muslim — of  the  body-politic  of  India  became 
most  acute  in  the  evening  of  his  life.  Their  first  serious 
clash  took  place  in  Bengal  and  was  most  violent  in 
the  eastern  section  of  this  Province. 

True  to  his  life’s  mission  Gandhiji  accepted  the 
challenge  offered  by  the  dreadful  communal  imbro¬ 
glio  in  Bengal  and  used  his  technique  of  non-violence 
or  love  to  settle  the  differences. 


*Strenuous  attempt  for  spiritual  elevation 


PREFACE 


V 


It  is  not  pertinent  here  to  discuss  how  far,  and  in 
what  respects,  this  experiment  was  successful.  What 
is  essential,  however,  is  to  remember  that  this  experi¬ 
ment  of  Gandhiji’s  gave  us  very  valuable  suggestions 
for  the  future  development  of  the  technique  of  non¬ 
violence.  That  is  why  he  considered  the  preservation 
of  a  day-to-day  record  of  his  way  of  living,  and  of  the 
stupendous  efforts  he  was  putting  forth  to  make  the 
experiment  a  success,  as  of  paramount  importance  to 
future  generations  of  mankind. 

Consequently,  from  the  very  beginning  of  the 
experiment,  the  Mahatma  kept  Smt.  Manubahen 
Gandhi  by  his  side — both  to  attend  to  his  personal 
needs  and  to  help  him  in  his  arduous  work.  He 
also  insisted  on  her  keeping  a  record  of  how  he  spent 
each  day  in  Noakhali  and  other  places.  In  Smt.  Manu- 
bahen’s  daily  diary  we  have  an  authentic  eye-witness 
account  of  Gandhiji’s  pilgrimage  on  foot,  through 
Noakhali. 

This  diary  contains  many  attractive  and  instruc¬ 
tive  features  such’  as  a  faithful  and  reliable  report  of 
Gandhiji’s  daily  activities,  his  method  of  getting  a 
good  deal  of  work  from  his  helpers  without  letting  them 
feel  the  burden  and,  more  than  both  these,  his  unique 
system — soft  like  a  flower  and  adamant  (at  times) 
like  steel,  as  a  Sanskrit  poet  says — of  training  the  per¬ 
sons  under  him  so  as  to  make  them  of  invaluable  help 
to  him  in  his  chosen  work.  But  the  most  important 
feature,  from  the  point  of  view  of  the  future  develop¬ 
ment  of  the  human  race,  is  the  exact  account  given, 
herein  in  great  detail,  of  the  experiment  (of  non¬ 
violence  or  love)  carried  on  single-handed  by  Gandhiji 
to  make  the  work  successful.  Be  it  remembered  that 


VI 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


the  work  was  accepted  by  him  as  his  special  mission 
in  the  last  years  of  his  life. 

All  those  who  desire  to  make  experiments  in 
future  in  order  to  evolve  a  successful  technique  of  non¬ 
violence  for  the  solution  of  the  world’s  ills,  will  be  for 
ever  indebted  to  Smt.  Manubahen  Gandhi  for  pre¬ 
serving  these  details  so  carefully,  faithfully  and  with 
such  love  and  devotion. 

Bombay, 

4-1 -’54  Morarji  Desai 

(Translated  from  Gujarati) 


v 


CONTENTS 


Chapter  Page 

PREFACE  ( Morarji  Desai )  iii 

I  THAT  RED-LETTER  DAY  ...  3 

II  INITIATION  INTO  SELF-SACRIFICE  .  8 

III  IN  CHARGE  OF  THE  WORK  .  .  16 

IV  THE  IMPORTANCE  OF  THE  DIARY  .  27 

V  THREE  INVALUABLE  LESSONS  .  .  32 

VI  PANDITJl’s  VISIT  ....  42 

VII  PREPARATIONS  FOR  THE  PILGRIMAGE  .  55 

VIII  THE  LONELY  PILGRIM  .  .  .  73 

IX  THE  FIERY  ORDEAL  .  .  .  102 


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THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


I 


THAT  RED-LETTER  DAY 

When  there  were  serious  upheavals  in  the  country 
in  October  1946,  family  affairs  necessitated  my  presence 
at  Udaipur,  and  thus  I  was  not  with  Bapu  at  this 
time.  A  terrifying  communal  riot  broke  out  in  Bengal. 
It  had  its  repercussions  in  Bihar  as  well.  Bapuji  had  to 
leave  for  Bengal.  Before  his  departure  from  New  Delhi, 
he  wrote  to  me  (at  Udaipur)  as  follows: 

Manudi,* 

I  received  your  letter  from  Udaipur  yesterday.  I  shall 
be  leaving  for  Bengal,  I  suppose,  in  a  day  or  two.  I  would 
have  been  happier,  if  you  had  come  here  before  I  left.  But 
now,  please  yourself.  I  am  quite  content  with  whatever 
makes  you  happy  and  sets  you  on  the  road  to  service.  Stay 
on  there  till  Umiya  is  satisfied.  You  ought  to  be  able  to 
recoup  your  health  there.  The  place  is  known  for  its  brac¬ 
ing  climate. 

Blessings, 

Bapu 

As  he  did  not  know  my  whereabouts  when  he 
reached  Calcutta,  he  wrote  to  my  father  from  there: 


*  ‘di’  :  A  term  of  endearment  given  to  a  little  girl 


3 


4  THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 

Calcutta, 

4-11 -’46 

My  dear  Jayasukhlal, 

Manu’s  letter  along  with  yours  to  her.  At  her  request, 
I  return  them  to  you  as  I  am  not  sure  if  she  has  arrived 
there.  I  have  no  time  to  write  her  separately  or  even  this 
letter  to  you  but  I  write,  as  I  must  do  so. 

*  *  * 

The  letter  had  to  be  finished  in  three  parts.  I  fear 
this  may  turn  out  to  be  my  last.  The  Bihar  episode  makes 
me  resolve  not  to  stand  by,  as  a  mere  silent  witness,  if  people’s 
mentality  does  not  improve.  As  it  is,  I  am  already  on  a 
partial  fast,  but  health  is  its  chief  reason.  However,  Bihar, 
it  seems,  may  lead  me  to  undertake  a  complete  fast.  The 
day  after  tomorrow  I  leave  for  Noakhali.*  I  write  the  fewest 
possible  letters  these  days.  Only  after  my  arrival  here  today, 
could  this  long  one  be  finished.  Manu’s  place  can  be 
nowhere  else  than  here  by  my  side.  But  now  it  is  practically 
impossible.  May  she  be  happy  and  free  from  disease!  The 
rest  of  the  news  you  can  get  from  the  newspapers. 

Blessings, 

Bapu 

I  read  this  letter  when  I  reached  Mahuvaf  on 
December  1st,  and  the  same  night  the  radio  announced 
that  Bapuji  had  sent  away  all  his  colleagues  to  different 
villages  in  Noakhali.  Bapu’s  words  in  my  father’s 
letter,  “  Manu’s  place  can  be  nowhere  else  but  here 
by  my  side”  moved  me  deeply.  Ah!  If  only  Bapu  will 
let  me  attend  to  his  personal  needs !  I  mused  over  this, 
but  that  appears  now  to  be  impossible.  For  how  can 

*A  district,  now  in  East  Pakistan 
fA  small  town  in  Gujarat  State 


THE  RED-LETTER  DAY 


5 


he  possibly  ask  me  to  be  with  him,  when  he  has  already 
sent  away  those  near  him  to  various  villages  in  and 
around  Noakhali  ? 

These  thoughts  made  me  sleepless.  I  got  up,  woke 
my  father  and  sought  his  advice.  “At  least  write 
to  him”,  he  said.  “If  you  are  earnest  about  serving 
Bapu,  your  desire  will  surely  be  fulfilled.”  His  words 
filled  me  with  enthusiasm  and  hope.  Immediately, 
therefore,  at  the  dead  of  night,  at  1.30  a.  m.,  I  wrote  a 
letter  to  Bapu,  explicitly  laying  down  the  condition 
on  which  I  would  join  him: 

“  I  do  not  wish  to  come,  if  you  want  me  to  work 
in  some  village  away  from  you.  I  am  doing  that  work 
as  best  as  I  can  at  this  end.  On  the  other  hand,  I  am 
eager  and  anxious  to  be  with  you,  if  only  you  will  let 
me  help  you  and  look  after  you.  If  so,  please  wire, 
to  enable  me  to  come  up  before  you  start  on  your 
trek.  I  promise  to  brave  any  dangers  that  might  be¬ 
fall  me.” 

I  wonder  what  stars  were  working  in  my  favour 
that  midnight  at  1.30  a.  m.  !  The  letter  evoked  the 
response  I  wanted.  Twas  filled  with  joy,  as  on  1 1-1 2-546 
evening  I  espied  from  afar  the  telegraph  peon  coming 
towards  me.  I  tore  open  the  envelop  and  lo!  the 
telegram  was  Bapu’s! 

Ramganj, 

Jayasukhlal  Gandhi, 

Care/Shepherd, 

Mahuva 

If  you  and  Manu  sincerely  anxious  for  her  to  be 
with  me  at  your  risk  you  can  bring  her  to  be  with  me. 
Wire  arrival  Khadi  Pratishthan,  College  Square,  Calcutta. 

Bapu 


6 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


I  felt  that  the  blessings  of  my  Grandma  and  pare¬ 
nts  were  responsible  for  my  good  luck.  I  was  thrilled 
that  Providence  had  intervened  to  help  me  and  turn 
a  dream  into  reality.  I  felt  gratified  at  this  fresh  mark 
of  Bapu’s  continued  benevolence. 

My  father  wired  Bhavnagar  for  leave  of  absence. 
Before  it  was  granted,  I  wrote  a  letter  to  Bapu  which, 
on  my  reaching  Noakhali,  he  returned  and  asked  me 
to  keep  it  with  me  till  the  end  of  my  life.  This  was, 
perhaps,  because  it  contained  a  solemn  promise  in 
writing  on  my  part.  This  was  the  only  letter  which  he 
asked  me  to  preserve.  Here  is  that  letter: 


“  Mahuva, 
12-12-’46 


Dear  and  Revered  Bapuji, 

I  got  your  wire  last  evening.  I  am  immensely 
happy  to  learn  that  you  have  so  kindly  agreed  to  let 
me  serve  you;  father  has  wired  Bhavnagar  for  15 
days’  leave.  We  expect  it  to  be  granted  and  we  shall 
be  with  you  earliest  by  the  22nd  or  23rd  inst.  Before 
we  start  for  Calcutta  we  shall  wire  Khadi  Pratishthan 
regarding  our  expected  arrival. 

I  had  already  consulted  father,  and  together  we 
had  fully  considered  all  the  possible  dangers  that  could 
confront  me,  before  I  had  decided  to  join  you.  And 
my  letter  contains  all  these  details,  so  that,  a  short 
telegram  of  your  approval  would  have  sufficed. 

This  reminds  me  of  what  you  said  to  me  on  one 
occasion.  When  Zaheta,  Kantabahen  and  all  my 
chums  left  me,  I  was  depressed  and  exclaimed,  ‘Bapu, 
I  am  alone  now!’  ‘Alone  ?’  you  said  admonishing 


THE  RED-LETTER  DAY 


7 


me,  ‘  how  could  you  be  alone,  when  I  am  with  you  ? 
It  would  be  you  and  I  together  who  shall  always  be 
alone.  5  And  then  you  cited  a  verse  (  II;  70  ) 

from  the  Bhagavadgita  explaining  its  meaning.  That 
golden  day  of  our  staying  together  alone  has  verily 
arrived  at  last!  And  now  I  only  pray  to  God  to  give 
me  strength  to  serve  you  faithfully  to  the  end. 

I  have  read  your  letter  addressed  to  Papa.  Of 
course,  you  are  right  in  saying  that  I  was  silly  in  that 
matter.  Had  I  been  wise,  how  could  such  a  thing  have 
happened  ?  But  God,  I  feel,  abides  with  fools  also. 
How  else  could  I  be  addressed  by  pet  names?  And 
that  too  by  you  ?  What’s  done  is  done.  You  will  have 
to  teach  me  wisdom.  At  present  the  prospect  of  ser¬ 
ving  you  makes  me  forget  everything.  In  your  service 
I  will  willingly  accept  even  daggers,  if  that  be  my 
fate. 

I  trust  your  health  is  good. 

Your  daughter, 
Manudi” 

We  left  for  Calcutta  on  15-12-’46.  A  guide  from 
Khadi  Pratishthan  accompanied  us  to  Noakhali. 
It  took  us  full  24  hours  to  reach  Kazirkhil,  Gandhiji’s 
headquarters.  The  journey  was  trying.  At  last,  we 
reached  Shrirampur,  where  Gandhiji  had  encamped, 
at  3  p.  m.  in  the  afternoon  on  19-12-’46.  That  day  is 
written  in  letters  of  gold  in  the  book  of  my  life. 


II 


INITIATION  INTO  SELF-SACRIFICE 

Shrirampur, 
19-12-’46,  Thursday 

When  we  had  the  first  glimpse  of  Bapuji  at  about 
3  p.  m.,  he  was  sitting  alone  on  a  long  wooden  bed¬ 
stead  plying  his  spinning  wheel.  Around  him  were 
soldiers  of  the  I.  N.  A.*,  Col.  Jivansinhaji  and  others, 
who  wanted  to  join  him  in  his  work.  They  were  ques¬ 
tioning  him  regarding  some  points  on  which  they 
wanted  clarification,  and  all  became  deeply  absorbed 
in  their  conversation. 

We  entered  the  hut.  The  threshold  was  about 
four  feet  from  Bapuji’s  seat.  So  I  ran  straight  to  him 
and  knelt  down.  He  gave  me  a  sound  pat  on  the  back, 
twisted  my  ear,  slapped  me  on  my  cheek  and  pinched 
it  too.  “  So,  you  have  come,  ”  he  said;  and  turning  to 
the  Colonel,  observed,  “This  girlie  has  come,  prepared 
for  death.  That’s  why  I  took  a  couple  of  minutes  off 
from  attending  to  you.  And  now  let’s  go  on.  .  .  .” 

In  about  six  or  seven  minutes  the  party  left  and 
Bapu  inquired  about  my  health.  “  How  do  you  find 
me?”  I  queried  in  answer.  “  Oh!  Just  the  same. 
But  you  seem  to  have  put  on  weight  .” 

Then  he  turned  to  my  father,  “  When  did  you 
start?  Was  the  train  overcrowded?  I  got  Manudi’s 
letter.  Even  when  she  came  to  Delhi,  I  pressed  her 
to  remain  with  me.  But  she  wanted  to  go  to  Umiya; 
so  she  went  away  leaving  a  letter  for  me.  That  letter 
charmed  me.  I  think  I  wrote  to  Manu  what  I  felt 


*  Indian  National  Army  of  Shri  Subhash  Chandra  Bose. 

8 


INITIATION  INTO  SELF-SACRIFICE 


9 


about  it.  After  that  I  had  to  come  down  to  Bengal* 
Quite  a  different  situation  faces  us  here.  There’s  no 
option  here  but  to  do  or  die.  I  was  not  sure  if  Manu 
would  be  prepared  for  that,  but  I  got  her  letter  showing 
her  eagerness  to  come.  As  she  wanted  me  to  wire  my 
reply,  I  did  so.  She  will  be  put  to  a  very  severe  test 
by  the  situation  here.  I  consider  this  Hindu-Muslim 
unity  problem  an  altar  for  self-sacrifice.  Not  a  trace 
of  impurity  can  pass  muster  here.  If  there  is  even  a 
speck  of  it  in  Manu,  she  will  fail  and  go  to  pieces. 
Let’s  all  be  clear  on  this  point.  She  can  return  even 
now.  Better  to  do  so  now  than  with  shame  and  disho¬ 
nour  afterwards.” 

Bapu  then  looked  straight  at  me  and  said  in  all 
earnestness,  “Do  you  realize  clearly  what  I  mean? 
If  not,  let  Jayasukhlal  explain.  Here  you  have  to  pass 
through  a  crucible  of  fire.” 

The  talk  ended  there  as  Kularanjanbabu  returned* 
As  it  was  getting  dark,  Bapu  asked  Bhai ,  i.  e.  Papa 
to  leave,  but  told  me  to  stay  on  even  though  my 
bedding  was  yet  to  come.  “This  is  the  holy  ground  of 
sacrifice,”  he  explained  to  Papa,  “I  can’t  let  you  sleep 
or  have  your  meals  here.  You  may  go  back  to  Kazir- 
khil  and  send  Manu’s  bedding.” 

Bapu  spared  a  carpet  for  me  from  his  kit.  He 
lay  down  to  sleep  at  9.30  p.  m. 

Exactly  at  12.30  a.  m.  I  felt  a  hand  softly  pass 
over  my  head  and  I  woke  up.  “  Manudi  ”,  said  Bapu, 
“  are  you  now  awake?  I  want  to  have  a  talk  with  you. 
Note  clearly  what  the  situation  expects  of  you  and 
then  after  a  talk  with  Jayasukhlal,  decide  quickly. 
You  know,  his  leave  is  running  short.”* 

*For  details  of  this  talk  see  Bapu  —  My  Mother,  (1962), 

pp.  8-11. 


10  the  lonely  pilgrim 

Ever  since  I  came  here  last  evening,  I  had  heard 
a  lot  regarding  Bapu’s  activity  in  Noakhali.  All  I  can  say 
is  that  it  is  beyond  the  power  of  language  to  give  a 
true  picture  of  the  exalted  state  of  his  mind,  the  wonder¬ 
ful  work  he  is  doing  and  the  stupendous  difficulties 
he  is  withstanding.  Suffice  it  to  quote  a  well-known 
bhajan  of  the  Gujarati  Poet,  Akha  Bagat.  It  is  an  apt 
description  of  Bapu  and  those  like  him. 

The  ways  of  the  Sage 
You  cannot  gauge! 

When  the  night  is  dark, 

And  the  tiny  bark, 

Turns  here  and  there 
And  everywhere, 

The  boatswain  has  his  gaze 
At  the  Star  always. 

So,  mariner-wise 

Are  the  ways  of  the  wise. 

In  all  his  deeds 
And  all  his  needs, 

Himself  he  removes 
From  mundane  grooves. 

As  melts  the  snow, 

It  flows  you  know, 

He  sees  the  One 
And  all,  from  One. 

From  Freedom’s  bower 
His  actions  flower. 


INITIATION  INTO  SELF-SACRIFICE 


11 


The  wisest  resign 
The  attempt  to  divine, 
They  say,  ‘the  mind 
Falls  short,  we  find!’ 
That  state  he  gains; 
What,  then,  remains? 

To  him  from  the  sky 
Comes  down  the  cry, 
The  Voice  Eternal 
And  Supernal. 

That  rarest  soul 
Sees  all  One  Whole; 
Though  this  is  hard, 
Says  Akha,  the  bard. 


Shrirampur, 
20-12-’46,  Friday 

Again  at  3.30  a.  m.  I  was  awakened  by  Bapu. 
He  was  already  up  and  doing.  This  is  what  he  wrote 
in  his  diary  of  that  day: 

Got  up  at  12.30  a.m.  and  awoke  Manu  at  12.45  a.m. 
Explained  to  her  all  that  was  expected  of  her,  and  asked 
her  to  consult  Jayasukhlal.  She  can  even  now  change  her 
mind  and  return  home,  but  once  she  takes  the  plunge,  she 
ought  to  withstand  all  dangers.  She  did  not  waver  in  the 
least.  Just  for  my  sake,  however,  she  will  talk  to  Jayasukh¬ 
lal;  but  he,  on  his  part,  had  given  her  a  free  hand  to  decide 
her  course,  and  is  expected  to  do  the  same  now.  This  talk 
went  on  till  1.15  a.m.  and  then  at  3  a.m.  got  up  again  for 
prayers. 

All  this  Bapu  wrote  in  his  own  hand  in  his  diary 
and  then  asked  me  to  copy  the  part  concerning  me 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


12 

and  send  it  to  Papa.  By  the  time  I  finished  it,  it  was 
3.30  a,  m.  The  prayers  then  began.  He  asked  me 
to  sing  henceforth  the  hymns  and  recite  the  Bhagavad- 
gita  during  the  prayers  which  Nirmal  Babu  and  Paras- 
ramji  also  attended.  When  they  were  over,  Bapu 
asked  me  to  think  over  our  talk  of  last  night  again, 
but  1  had  told  him  my  decision  immediately  after 
our  chat.  I  said,  44  If  you  accept  my  single  condition 
to  let  me  be  with  you  wherever  you  go,  I  accept  in 
return  all  your  conditions  and  all  the  tiials  that  may 
be  in  store  for  me.  Since  my  childhood,  Papa  has 
always  allowed  me  to  do  as  I  liked  and  has  never 
distrusted  me.  So  you  need  to  be  concerned  with  my 
wish  rather  than  his.  ” 

As  I  went  to  prepare  hot  water  for  him,  Bapu 
wrote  a  chit  to  me : 

Dear  Manudi, 

Keep  your  word.  Never  hide  even  a  single  thought 
from  me.  Give  me  the  whole  truth  as  you  know  it,  when¬ 
ever  I  want  to  know  something  from  you.  The  step  I 
took  today  was  taken  after  grave  deliberation.  Put  down 
in  writing  for  me  your  reaction  to  it.  I  will  be  utterly  frank 
with  you  and  apprise  you  of  all  my  thoughts.  But  all  I 
want  at  present  from  you  is  this:  Let  it  be  ingrained  in 
your  mind  that  whatever  I  tell  you  or  want  from  you  is 
always  for  your  good. 

Bapu 

I  replied:  44  I  will  willingly  suffer  to  the  last  all 
my  trials  and  troubles.  I  have  the  fullest  faith  and 
trust  in  you.  And  now,  the  more  terrible  and  darker 
the  picture  you  draw  of  Noakhali,  the  more  is  my 
mind  steeled  to  stay  on  here.  ” 


INITIATION  INTO  SELF-SACRIFICE 


13 


Bapu  replied: 

If  all  this  is  true,  I  have  nothing  more  to  say.  What 
remains  for  me  now  is  but  to  understand  you.  If  your 
faith  has  gone  that  deep,  you  are  safe  and  well-protected; 
and  silly  as  you  are,  you,  too,  will  play  your  part  to  the 
full  in  this  great  drama  of  self-sacrifice.  If  you  don’t  under¬ 
stand  anything,  you  can  ask  me. 

Bapu 

At  7.30  a.  m.,  Bapu  went  out  for  his  morning 
stroll.  On  the  way  he  said,  “  Don’t  make  the  mistake 
of  thinking  that  you  have  been  summoned  here  simply 
to  serve  me.  You  know  that  neither  a  little  girl  nor 
an  old  lady  is  safe  here.  So  if  you,  a  youngster  of  16  or 
17  years,  bravely  resist  an  attack  from  ruffians  or  die 
in  the  attempt,  I  shall  dance  with  joy.  I  want  to  make 
you  the  object  of  my  experiment  in  fearless  non-violence 
and  therefore  you  have  been  sent  for.” 

In  Noakhali,  one  has  some  times  to  cross  on 
bamboo  bridges  to  get  to  the  other  side.  So  Bapu  used 
to  practise  crossing,  as  it  requires  skill  to  do  so  success¬ 
fully.  The  local  children  could  do  this  safely  and  qui¬ 
ckly,  but  a  stranger  is  very  likely  to  trip  and  fall  into 
the  ditch  below. 

On  our  return  from  the  morning  walk,  I  washed 
Bapu’s  feet  and  then  massaged  his  body.  Bapu  was 
lulled  into  napping  for  half  an  hour  during  the  massa¬ 
ge.  After  his  bath,  when  he  was  taking  his  morning 
meal  at  10  a.  m.,  Papa  came  up  to  bid  us  farewell. 
Bapu  said,  “Manudi  is  firm  as  a  rock.  I  had  a  long 
talk  with  her.  You  may  go  now  with  an  easy  mind. 
Don’t  be  anxious  about  her.” 

Papa  replied,  “  Now  that  she  has  decided  to  stay 
here,  you  may  keep  her  with  you  as  long  as  you  like. 
Why  should  I  worry  over  her  when  she  is  with  you  ?” 


14 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


Bapu:  44  For  myself,  I  am  resolved  not  to  send  her 
away  as  long  as  I  am  alive.  But  she  is  free.  She  can 
go  home  whenever  she  likes  if  she  gets  tired.  She  may 
leave  me,  but  I  shall  never  leave  her.  Nothing  can 
part  us  now  but  death.  And  what  can  death  do  after 
all?  It  can  separate  the  bodies,  but  is  not  the  soul 
immortal?  It  is  my  cherished  desire  to  draw  out  all 
the  hidden  best  in  her  which  I  have  noticed.” 

Papa  started  for  Mahuva  at  1 1.30  a.  m.  Bapu  asked 
me  to  send  back  all  my  extra  luggage  with  him.  At 
3  p.  m.  he  asked  me  to  read  to  him  my  diary.  I  object¬ 
ed,  and  said,  4 ‘I  am  ashamed  to  read  my  confessions 
aloud  to  you.” 

Bapu  explained,  cc  There  is  greater  purification  in 
boldly  confessing  one’s  shortcomings  face  to  face  than 
by  simply  writing  them  down  for  others  to  read  or  by 
conveying  the  same  through  a  third  person.  So  read 
out  your  diary  yourself.  I  shall  gather  from  it  what 
you  have  understood,  and  then  I  shall  sign  it.  That 
saves  my  time  in  reading,  and  also  the  strain  on  my 
eyes.  As  for  you,  all  you  have  to  do  now  is  to  serve 
me  in  all  possible  ways.  You  shouldn’t  pay  attention 
to  anything  else.  Consider  this  a  part  of  your  duties 
and  go  ahead.” 

So  I  read  out  to  him  my  diary  of  the  previous  day. 
When  he  finished  his  spinning,  he  signed  it. 

At  4  p.  m.  he  dictated  some  letters.  44 1  want 
the  same  work  from  you  as  I  used  to  from  Mahadev 
and  Prabha,”  he  remarked. 

When  I  was  alone  with  myself,  after  evening 
prayers,  I  was  in  a  pensive  and  a  rather  dejected  mood. 
I  wondered  if  I  could  prove  myself  fit  for  the  heavy 
responsibility  entrusted  to  me. 


INITIATION  INTO  SELF-SACRIFICE  15 

“  Why  are  you  so  glum?  55  exhorted  Bapu,  “  It’s 
a  sin  to  keep  back  anything  from  me — your  mother! 
Out  with  your  thoughts,  good  or  bad.” 

“From  your  letters  to  .  .  .  which  you  dictated  a 
little  while  ago,  I  see  how  great  are  the  expectations 
you  have  formed  of  me,  and  I  am  afraid  I  shall  not 
come  up  to  the  mark,”  I  said. 

“But  why  should  you  worry  over  that,”  Bapu 
objected.  “Don’t  you  know  that  line  of  Gurudev 
Tagore  —  Tt’s  wrong  to  get  worried’  ?  Sincerity  is 
all  that’s  wanted.  If  that  is  there,  all  else  shall  be  added 
unto  you.  Let’s  rely  entirely  on  God  to  help  us  and 
then  do  our  bit  faithfully.  That’s  all.  If  we  are  worried 
we  may  pray  to  Him,  and  He  will  surely  endow  us 
with  the  power  to  rise  to  the  occasion  and  do  our 
duty  satisfactorily.  We  may  also  chant  His  name. 
Have  the  fullest  faith  in  Him,  and  let  Him  worry  about 
the  rest.  The  baby  simply  cries  for  milk  when  it  is 
hungry.  It  is  however,  the  mummy  that  comes  up  and 
feeds  it,  because  the  responsibility  and  anxiety  for 
feeding  the  baby  rests  not  with  it  but  with  the  mother. 
So  be  a  child.  If  you  carry  on  your  own  shoulders  the 
load  and  responsibility  of  your  work,  I  am  sure,  you 
can  never  stand  the  strain.  Leave  the  burden  to  me 
and  to  God  and  do  your  work  according  to  the  power 
He  generates  in  you.” 

To  day  was  the  first  occasion,  when  I  sang  prayers, 
aloud  before  the  public.  So  there  was  a  tremor  in  my 
voice.  Bapu  did  not  fail  to  notice  it.  He  remarked, 
“  One  shouldn’t  pray  as  if  it  were  a  routine  matter, 
or  as  an  exercise  in  musical  performance.  If  your  pra¬ 
yers  are  really  sincere,  the  listeners  are  sure  to  be  deeply 
moved.  Your  diffidence  will  peter  out  in  a  few  days.” 


16 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


At  8.30  p.  m.  Bapu  wrote  down  the  Bengali 
alphabet  by  way  of  practice.  I  read  to  him  the  post 
and  the  newspapers.  I  have  taken  up  the  full  work 
of  attendance  on  Bapu’s  needs  from  today  onwards. 

What  a  shower  of  God’s  grace  on  me!  It  was 
exactly  in  this  way  that  I  had  a  chance  to  attend  to 
grandma  and  now  I  have  the  rarest  luck  to  serve  the 
world’s  greatest  personality  —  and  that  too,  during 
a  period  of  such  self-imposed  ordeal!  I  can  correctly 
visualize  the  truth  of  the  old  adage,  £  Truth  alone 
succeeds’.  Let  my  faith  in  Thee,  my  Lord,  be  always 
as  firm  as  at  present  and  let  me  be  fit  for  all  these 
blessings  vouchsafed  by  you  to  me. 

Ill 

IN  CHARGE  OF  THE  WORK 

Shrirampur, 
21-12-’46,  Saturday 

Bapu  got  up  at  3.30  a.  m.,  a  little  earlier  than  the 
time  set  for  prayers.  As  he  brushed  his  teeth,  I  read 
aloud  to  him  the  letters  which  he  had  dictated  to  me 
yesterday.  It  was  time  for  prayers  before  my  reading 
was  over  and  he  signed  my  diary. 

After  prayers  he  had  his  glass  of  warm  water  and 
honey  and  then  corrected  the  draft  of  his  evening 
prayer-speech  which  was  prepared  by  Nirmal  babu. 
The  correction  took  quite  a  while.  After  this,  he  had 
a  glass  of  sweet  lemon  juice  and  set  out  for  his  morning 
walk  —  an  unusually  long  one  today.  Some  press- 
reporters  and  I  accompanied  him.  During  that  stroll 
of  40  minutes,  Bapu  inquired  after  my  progress  in  the 
study  of  the  Bhagavadgita. 


IN  CHARGE  OF  THE  WORK 


17 


“  Ever  since  my  release  from  jail,”  I  admitted, 
Ci  my  study  of  the  Gita  has  been  very  haphazard. 

I  tried  to  understand  what  I  could  by  my  own  efforts; 
but  I  deliberately  refrained  from  asking  others  to  help 
me  with  it  as  I  wanted  nobody  but  you  as  my  Guru 
of  the  holy  Gita.  I  had  no  objection  to  others  teaching 
me  other  subjects.  55 

Bapuji  was  unhappy.  cc  That  was  an  infatuation, 
nothing  else,  ”  he  explained.  “  Why  should  we  not 
have  thousands  of  Gurus  if  we  gain  true  knowledge 
thereby?  One  can  learn  wisdom  even  from  a  child.  Why 
should  you  feel  shy  to  learn  good  things  from  others  ? 
However,  what  is  done  is  done.  It’s  never  too  late 
to  mend.  From  to  day  itself  we  start  the  study  of  the 
Gita.  There  won’t  be  much  trouble  for  you  in  the  pro¬ 
nunciations  of  words,  but  what  grieves  me  is  the  fact 
that  you  do  not  understand  the  meaning  of  the  verses. 
You  will  write  down  five  verses  daily.  You  know  that  the 
third  canto  deals  with  Yajna.  Lord  Krishna  categori¬ 
cally  lays  down  there  that  the  man  who  is  selfish 
and  eats  his  bread  without  offering  anything  to  Him 
by  way  of  sacrifice  (of  service)  is  verily  a  thief.  Now, 
that  is  a  momentous  statement,  since  eating  stolen 
bread  is  as  harmful  as  gulping  down  raw  mercury 
which  is  indigestible  and  poisonous.  It  causes  erup¬ 
tions  all  over  the  body.  In  the  same  way,  stolen  bread 
lands  one  in  trouble.  If,  even  for  a  moment,  a  man 
lapses  from  this  duty  of  self-sacrifice,  he  is  a  thief. 
So,  we  must  never  fail  to  sacrifice  something  for  others. 
For  the  person  whose  heart  is  sound  and  in  the  right 
place,  self-sacrifice  is  an  easy  thing.  Neither  wealth, 
intelligence,  nor  learning  is  a  pre-requisite  for  it.  By 
‘  sacrifice  5  I  mean  any  benevolent  activity.  He  alone 
can  be  said  to  be  free  from  the  taint  of  eating  stolen 


L-2 


18 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


bread,  whose  whole  life  is  one  unbroken  string  of  self- 
sacrifice. 

“So  a  man  is  a  greater  thief  with  smaller  sacrifice 
and  vice  versa.  Carrying  our  thinking  to  this  depth,  we 
realize  that  every  one  of  us  is  a  thief  to  some  extent. 
Our  Yajna  can  be  whole  and  complete  only  when 
we  relinquish  the  last  vestige  of  self-interest,  i.  e.  when 
we  give  up  the  ego  completely  and  so  discard  our 
preference  for  self  or  our  dear  ones  in  any  matter 
whatsoever.  One  ought  never  to  think  in  terms  such 
as,  ‘this  is  my  brother,  but  that  one  is  an  outsider; 
this  is  my  sister  but  that  girl  is  nothing  to  me. 5  He 
alone  who  dedicates  his  all  to  the  Lord  can  achieve 
entire  selflessness.  Service,  in  the  true  sense,  is  rendered 
only  by  him  who  makes  God  the  guide  of  all  his 
deeds  and  considers  himself  as  His  servant,  entirely 
at  His  disposal.  Such  a  person  always  enjoys 
happiness  and  peace  of  mind.  In  fact,  neither  joy  nor 
sorrow  disturbs  his  equipoise  and  serenity.  He  uses 
his  body,  mind,  intellect,  nay,  everything,  in  some 
sort  of  philanthropic  activity  daily.  All  of  us  cannot 
rise  to  this  height  of  total  self-abnegation.  What  then 
is  that  benevolent  work  by  which  we  can  legitimately 
feel  we  are  helping  the  whole  world?  A  search  for  an 
answer  to  this  question  brings  us  to  the  conclusion  that 
among  such  activities  the  principal  one  is  that  of 
spinning.  This  is  the  only  work  easily  done,  in  a  spirit 
of  helpful  service,  by  countless  persons,  collectively, 
or  individually.  That  sacrifice  can  be  made  for  our 
country;  nay,  even  for  the  whole  world.  It  is  the  one 
means  of  satisfying  the  hunger  of  starving  millions. 
The  blind,  the  mute,  the  deaf,  the  rich  and  the  poor, 
the  aged  and  the  child  can  spin.  Moreover,  one  can 
think  of  God  while  stretching  out  each  strand  of 


IN  CHARGE  OF  THE  WORK 


i9 


thread  from  the  slivers.  This  lesson  from  the  Gita  I 
have  woven  into  my  being.  My  object  in  explaining 
the  verses  of  the  Gita  in  this  way  is  that  you  should  not 
remain  content  with  merely  memorizing  the  verses, 
but  should  put  into  practice  the  lessons  you  learn  there¬ 
from.  A  literal,  grammatically  correct,  explanation 
of  the  Gita  does  not  satisfy  me  if  no  lesson  is  learnt 
from  it.  By  explaining  the  meaning  of  the  verses  to  you, 
I  thereby  also  taught  you  the  true  spirit  behind  the 
glorious  word  Yajna.  The  spinning  wheel  is  thus 
involved  in  Yajna  and  Yajna  itself  within  the  wheel.' ’ 

Bapuji  was  very  earnest  while  telling  me  all  this. 
The  exposition  lasted  right  up  to  the  end  of  our 
walk,  till  we  reached  home.  Then  I  washed  his  muddy 
feet  and  he  wrote  the  Bengali  alphabet.  When  he  was 
writing  it  I  made  the  necessary  preparations  for  his 
massage  and  hot  water  for  his  bath. 

During  the  massage  Bapuji  fell  asleep  for  about 
20  minutes.  He  tires  easily.  After  massage  and  bath, 
he  took  his  meal,  dictating  the  while  a  draft  of  a  letter 
to  Suhrawardi  Saheb.  He  had  8  oz.  of  milk,  a  vegetable 
and  unleavened  thin  bread  made  from  barley  flour. 
As  barley  seeds  had  been  sent  to  us  in  plenty,  Bapuji 
had  asked  me  to  crush  them  into  powder  with  a  stone 
and  make  bread.  But  breads  of  such  rough  flour  (made 
not  by  grinding  the  seeds  but  only  crushing  them) 
could  not  come  up  to  his  standard  of  perfection.  So, 
he  told  me  to  boil  henceforth  both  barley  and  a  vege¬ 
table  together  in  the  cooker. 

Bapuji’s  hostess  here  is  a  loving  old  lady.  We  cannot 
understand  each  other’s  language,  but  she  manages 
to  persuade  me  to  have  some  more  food  by  making 
gestures  and  sees  that  I  take  it. 


20 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


I,  too,  have  begun  to  learn  Bengali  from  today. 
Bapuji  exhorted  me:  “Let’s  see  now  which  one  of 
us  beats  the  other  in  Bengali.” 

He  lay  down  for  rest  at  lp.m.  I  rubbed  ghee 
on  his  legs  and  he  used  this  period  of  relaxation  in 
revising  his  letter  to  Suhrawardi  Saheb,  and  then  in 
examining  my  diary.  He  liked  it  but  asked  me  to  be 
brief  as  the  time  at  my  disposal  for  writing  it  was  short. 
“Jot  down  the  central  point,”  he  said,  “that  will 
teach  you  how  to  write  briefly.  Study  the  brevity  of 
my  style  of  writing.  Your  summary  of  the  talk  on  sacri¬ 
fice  shows  that  you  have  grasped  the  idea.” 

Bapuji  woke  up  at  2  p.  m.  thus  allowing  himself 
a  nap  of  15  minu  tes.  A  parcel  of  fruits  from  Shri  Birla’s 
firm  arrived  at  3  p.  m.  Then  came  a  tailor  who  mea¬ 
sured  me  for  a  suit  in  the  Punjabi  style.  At  3-15 
p.  m.  he  lay  down  to  have  mud  packs  on  his  head 
and  stomach.  During  that  repose,  Bapuji  dictated  to 
me  a  letter  to  Shrikrishna  Sinha  of  Bihar.  He  dozed 
off  for  only  5  minutes  and  then  received  visitors  for 
a  long  interview.  Mr.  Zaman,  the  Additional  District 
Magistrate,  Major  Striker,  Dr.  Das  Gupta,  and  three 
Relief  Officers  came  in  and  discussed  with  him  the 
proposed  route  of  his  pilgrimage.  In  his  talk  with  Mr. 
Zaman  regarding  the  method  of  getting  work  from  dis¬ 
placed  persons,  Bapuji  said,  “The  Government  cannot 
force  them  to  work.  It  is  a  different  thing  if  they  do  it 
voluntarily.  The  various  associations  are  the  right 
agencies  for  attending  to  such  matters.” 

The  interview  lasted  till  5  p.  m.,  when  Bapuji 
went  to  the  prayer  meeting.  Rain  prevented  a  large 
gathering  from  attending.  Even  so,  50  to  60  persons 
must  have  been  present.  People  have  not  yet  gained 
confidence  and  are  still  afraid  of  him,  and  dare  not 


IN  CHARGE  OF  THE  WORK  21 

approach  him  for  relief,  as  that  would  entail  fresh 
attacks  from  Muslims  if  they  came  to  know  of  it. 

The  whole  time  after  the  prayers  was  spent  by 
Bapuji  in  a  talk  with  Sushilabahen  who  had  come  from 
the  village  in  her  charge. 

On  his  return  from  the  evening  walk  Bapuji  drank 
a  glass  of  milk  and  ate  some  raisins.  As  I  had  no  imple¬ 
ment  like  a  wooden  roller-pin,  I  could  not  prepare 
khakharas  .* 

He  had  only  a  bite  of  sandesh\  which  our  loving 
old  hostess  compelled  Bapuji  to  accept. 

As  Bapuji  had  not  been  able  to  complete  his 
sacrificial  spinning  of  the  day,  he  spun  yarn  from 
8.30  to  9  p.  m.  and  completed  160  rounds];  of  yarn. 
Then  he  wrote  up  his  own  diary  and  lying  down  on 
the  wooden  bedstead,  listened  the  entries  in  mine.  He 
asked  me  to  leave  it  by  his  bed  side  for  his  signature  in 
the  morning. 

On  coming  out  of  the  bathroom  with  his  hands 
and  face  washed,  Bapuji  saw  me  preparing  his  bed 
single-handed.  So  he  helped  me  in  spreading  his  bed- 
sheet,  in  spite  of  my  strong  protest  against  his  taking 
the  trouble.  CCI  see,”  he  explained,  “that  your  protest 
is  tainted  by  a  tinge  of  subtle  egotism.  I  do  know  that 
it  is  your  love  for  me  that  impels  you  to  save  me  any 
trouble.  But  we  must  face  facts.  We  two  are  the  only 
hands  to  do  the  whole  of  the  household  work  here. 
If  you  insist  on  doing  it  all  alone  by  yourself,  you  may 
soon  fall  ill  and  stop  attending  to  my  needs.  And,  is 
spreading  a  bed  sheet  such  an  arduous  work  that  I 


*Very  thin  discs  of  unleavened  wheat  bread  baked  crisp 

fA  Bengali  sweet  made  of  coconut 

JOne  round  on  the  winding  reel  equals  4  yards 


22 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


might  get  tired?  So  from  now  on,  whatever  work 
suggests  itself  to  me,  I  shall  do  myself;  and  you,  too, 
may  do  what  you  think  you  should.” 

It  pained  me  to  seeBapuji  spreading  his  bed  sheet 
himself.  It  reminded  me  of  my  late  Grandma.  Had 
she  been  alive,  I  thought,  would  things  have  come  to 
such  a  pass?  But  after  this  talk  I  had  not  the  courage 
to  stop  Bapuji  from  spreading  the  sheet. 

At  9-30  p.  m.  Bapuji  lay  down  on  his  bed  and 
listened  to  the  newspapers  being  read  aloud  for  half 
an  hour.  He  asked  me  to  finish  the  day’s  work  and  go 
to  bed  as  soon  as  he  did  so.  "‘Even  if  you  can’t 
complete  the  work,”  he  said,  “let  it  remain  incomplete 
but  make  it  a  point  to  go  to  bed  when  I  do.  If  you 
don’t,  I  shall  feel  ill  at  ease  and  shall  not  get  a  wink 
of  sleep  as  long  as  you  remain  awake.” 

Bapuji  was  anxious  about  me  for  two  reasons.  If 
I  exerted  too  much  and  kept  late  hours  to  finish  the 
work,  I  might  get  ill.  But  what  weighed  with  him 
even  more  was  my  stay  in  this  region  which  was  dan¬ 
gerous,  especially  for  a  young  Hindu  girl  like  myself. 
So,  following  the  wise  adage,  ‘Forewarned  is  forearmed’, 

I  too  lay  down  to  sleep  soon  after  he  retired,  but  I 
did  finish  rubbing  ghee  on  his  head,  massaging  his  legs 
and  bowing  down  to  him  (by  way  of  bidding  him  good 
night).  This  is  the  third  day  since  I  came  here.  I  am 
happy  that  I  could  take  charge  of  all  the  work  to  be 
done  here  so  soon,  after  my  arrival. 

Shrirampur, 

22- 1 2-’46,  Sunday 

At  1-30  a.  m.  Bapuji  got  up  and  woke  me.  He 
asked  me  to  go  back  to  bed  immediately  after  provid¬ 
ing  him  with  writing  materials.  I  did  so  and  fell  asleep 


IN  CHARGE  OF  THE  WORK 


23 


again.  Then  at  2-30  a.  m.  I  was  once  more  awakened. 

I  read  to  him  some  letters  which  he  had  dictated  yester¬ 
day,  and  he  signed  them.  Bapuji  wrote  very  impor¬ 
tant  and  touching  letters  today,  among  them  are  the 
following : 

Two  letters  from  you  to  hand.  Shri  .  .  .  has  caught 
my  eye  and  I  am  drawn  to  him.  If  I  feel  that  my  stay 
here  will  be  a  fairly  lengthy  one,  I  shall  be  more  than 
happy  to  utilize  the  services  of  many  people  like  .  .  .  Though 
not  an  empty  boast,  your  reference  to  your  freedom  from 
fear  does  not  become  you.  People  ought  to  learn  to  shed  their 
fear  and  keep  up  their  spirits  even  if  they  know  that  such  * 
hooligans  as  you  mention  are  at  large.  As  long  as  we 
can’t  train  ourselves  to  make  fearlessness  a  part  of  our  being, 
we  are  bound  to  remain  spiritually  crippled.  Let  us  forget 
the  distinction  between  violence  and  non-violence.  We 
debase  the  term  ‘non-violence’  when  we  use  it  for  the 
cowardly  non-resistance  of  the  helpless.  That  should  pro¬ 
perly  be  called  astuteness  or  cunning  of  the  weak.  All  we 
seem  to  have  learned  thus  far  is  this  low  cunning  of  the 
coward.  That  is  why  I  have  begun  to  be  afraid  lest  I, 
too,  may  be  imbued  —  even  though  unconsciously  —  with 
this  trickery  in  the  guise  of  non-violence;  hence  I  have 
come  here  for  self-introspection  and  for  going  through  a 
severe  and  honest  test  of  my  courage  in  the  true  concept  of 
non-violence.  But  policemen  have  encamped  here,  and 
now  Sikh  friends  also  have  come.  Add  to  them,  Parashram 
and  Nirmalbabu  who  are  with  me;  and  finally,  the  day 
before  yesterday,  came  Manudi  to  whom  I  dictate  this 
letter.  Has  all  this  nothing  to  do  with  my  air  of  nonchalant 
fearlessness?  I  wonder.  Bit  enough  of  it.  A  word  to  the 
wise,  and  so  I  stop. 

With  Blessings, 
Bapu 


24 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


Here  is  another  letter  giving  a  graphic  picture  of 
the  tragedy  that  Noakhali  is: 

Your  letter  to  Pyarelal  came  direct  to  me.  He  and  the 
others  are  busy  carrying  out  their  respective  duties  and 
braving  death  itself  in  doing  so.  He  cannot  write  now  or  send 
you  anything  as  he  used  to,  when  we  were  all  together. 
As  your  letter  was  directed  to  Kazirkhil,  Satishbabu 
forwarded  it  to  me  here.  Pyarelal  knows  nothing  about 
it  as  yet.  He  visits  me  occasionally. 

At  3  a.m.,  in  the  early  hours  of  the  morning,  I  am  dic¬ 
tating  this  letter  to  you.  I 'have  not  brushed  my  teeth  etc. 
yet.  I  shall  do  it  at  4  a.m.  Then  prayers  and  the  daily 
routine.  I  can  stand  this  strain  only  if  God  sustains  me. 
But  I  am  not  at  all  anxious  about  my  health.  Though  it 
has  continued  to  stand  the  stress  and  strain  up  till  now,  it 
is  a  very  stiff  test  I  am  passing  through  here.  My  ideas  of 
truth  and  non-violence  are  at  present  being  weighed  in  a 
delicate  sensitive  balance,  like  the  one  used  for  weighing 
pearls.  Just  as  a  fraction  of  a  hair  disturbs  that  balance,  the 
slightest  infringement  of  truth  and  non-violence  will  make 
the  indicator  of  my  balance  tremble  violently.  I  am  certain 
that  the  principle  of  truth  and  non-violence  can  never  be 
wrong  or  defective;  but  this  case  (of  Noakhali)  may  show 
up  the  deficiency  of  its  exponent  and  avowed  representative, 
i.e.,  myself.  If  that  be  so,  I  only  hope  that  God  will  be 
merciful  enough  to  call  me  back  to  Him  and  get  His  work 
done  through  a  worthier  soul. 

I  am  sorry  that  I  cannot  myself  do  the  work  that 
Pyarelal  used  to  do,  and  also  that  I  have  not  yet  been 
able  to  adjust  the  work  here  in  such  a  way  as  to  get 
Pyarelal’s  work  done  by  the  two  persons  with  me.  But  I 
hope  to  do  so,  as  both  of  them  are  competent.  Your  letter 
will  act  as  an  incentive  to  that  adjustment.  At  her  own 
request,  Jayasukhlal  has  left  Manu  with  me.  She  has  been 


IN  CHARGE  OF  THE  WORK 


25 


here  for  the  last  4  days.  I  let  her  stay  with  me  as  she  was 
prepared  to  meet  death  if  need  be  in  my  company.  And 
now,  lying  comfortably  in  bed  with  my  eyes  closed,  I  am 
dictating  this  letter  to  her.  Sucheta  is  also  with  us  in  this 
small  room,  and  is  *  asleep.  So,  I  am  dictating  this  letter 
to  Manu  in  a  very  low  tone.  The  wooden  bedstead  com¬ 
monly  used  in  this  part  of  the  country  is  large  enough  for 
three  persons  to  sleep  together.  I  do  all  my  work  sitting 
or  lying  on  it,  and  do  not  have  to  get  out  of  it  for  any¬ 
thing.  Treat  the  telegram  which  you  sent  me  as  now  useless. 
There  is  no  end  to  the  exaggerations  regarding  the  situation 
here.  Not  that  people  deliberately  or  consciously  exaggerate 
things.  It  has  become  almost  an  automatic  habit  to  do  so. 
They  have  no  real  conception  of  the  meaning  of  the  word 
‘exaggeration’.  Like  greenery  growing  in  wild  profusion 
in  the  monsoon,  human  fancy  soars  to  the  sky  here,  with 
no  bearing  as  to  truth  or  facts.  All  around  us  tall  cocoanut 
and  betelnut  trees  are  seen  in  thick  clusters  and  in  their 
shade  grow  flora  of  infinite  variety.  The  rivers  here  are 
all  big  like  the  Sindhu.  It  is  here  that  those  great  rivers, 
the  Ganga,  the  Yamuna  and  the  Brahmaputra,  pour  their 
colossal  waters  into  the  Bay  of  Bengal. 

If  you  have  not  already  replied  to  the  sender  of  the 
telegram,  I  advise  you  to  do  so  in  these  terms:  ‘On  sending 
positive  proofs  to  substantiate  your  statements,  the  Central 
Government  may  possibly  do  something  in  the  matter,  though 
it  has  no  legal  authority  to  do  so.  There  is,  of  course, 
—Gandhi  at  your  disposal  and  he  will  not  fail  to  help.  But 
as  he  is  known  to  be  the  champion  of  truth  and  non-violence, 
it  is  likely  that  he  may  disappoint  you.  But  then,  if  Gandhi 
fails  you,  how  can  men  trained  under  him  be  of  much  real 
help  in  the  matter?’ 

The  situation  here  poses  many  difficulties  and  problems. 
No  amount  of  probing  brings  out  the  truth.  In  the  guise 


26 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


of  non-violence,  violence  is  practised  and  heinous  crimes 
are  committed  in  the  name  of  religion.  But  are  not  truth 
and  non-violence  best  tested  here,  in  the  midst  of  this  orgy 
of  crime,  violence  and  untruth?  I  know  it  is  so,  and  fully 
realize  the  implications.  That  makes  me  remain  here,  and 
till  conditions  improve  I  shall  not  leave.  It  will  be  an 
evil  day  for  me  if,  overcome  by  cowardice,  I  run  away. 
Nowhere  else  in  India  do  I  find  the  situation  as  difficult  as 
here.  That  is  why  I  am  determined  to  succeed  or  die  in  the 
attempt. 

The  Radio  gave  the  news  yesterday  that  ...  is  coming 
here  to  consult  me.  What  is  the  use  of  my  seeing  all  and 
sundry?  Any  one  of  you,  of  course,  who  has  something 
to  ask  me  can  do  so. 

*  *  * 

I  am  here  on  the  spot  itself,  where  the  fire  is  raging. 
So  I  can  give  a  reliable  report  of  what  happens  here  and 
the  truth  about  the  situation.  You  may  have  seen  the  report 
of  the  Bihar  (Muslim)  League.  I  have  written  to  .  .  . 
about  it  and  asked  ...  to  let  you  all  know  my  view  on  the 
matter.  It  is  terrible  if  even  half  of  it  is  true.  I  have  ab¬ 
solutely  no  doubt  on  the  point  that  an  immediate  enquiry 
should  be  made  by  a  committee  composed  of  men  of  un¬ 
doubted  veracity.  Not  a  day  should  be  allowed  to  lapse 
in  the  matter.  Whatever  is  true  in  the  League’s  report,  we 
must  admit.  What  cannot  be  admitted  should  be  handled 
by  the  Enquiry  Committee.  You  too  should  go  and  see  the 
Muslim  League  ministers  in  the  matter.  I  am  already 
carrying  on  a  correspondence  with  Suhrawardi  Saheb  which 
has  not  yet  ended. 

I  can  understand  and  visualize  the  stress  and  strain 
you  are  going  through  even  though  I  am  here,  so  far  away 
from  you.  But  some  things  have  got  to  be  done,  no  matter 
how  great  the  strain.  How  can  I  suppose  that  your  health 


THE  IMPORTANCE  OF  THE  DIARY  27 

is  alright?  But  I  presume  that  you  are  fit  enough  to  work. 
I  trust  you  will  be  completely  normal  in  due  course.  • 

With  Blessings, 
Bapu 

One  can  easily  see  from  his  letters  the  agony  that 
Bapuji  is  passing  through  in  the  midst  of  the  calm  and 
quiet  of  the  surroundings  here. 

Prayers  were  held  late  at  4  a.  m. 


IV 

THE  IMPORTANCE  OF  THE  DIARY 

As  today  is  the  22nd,  the  date  on  which  the  revered 
Grandma  passed  away,  the  entire  Gita  was  recited  in 
loving  memory  of  her.  The  function  went  off  very 
well  as  Sushilabahen,  who  was  here,  recited  the  verses. 
Before  it  ended,  Pyarelalji  and  an  English  friend,  Mr. 
England  came  on  foot  from  their  village.  When  pra¬ 
yers  were  over,  they  told  us  they  had  started  their 
tramp  as  early  as  2  a.  m.,  but  in  the  darkness  they  had 
lost  the  mud  track  and  so  were  somewhat  late. 
It  was  a  pity,  since  Mr.  England  wanted  to  attend  the 
whole  programme  of  the  recitation  and  the  prayers. 
But  Mr.  England  had  some  questions  to  ask  Bapuji, 
who  made  him  sample  his  favourite  drink  of  honey 
in  warm  water.  The  poor  man’s  face  betrayed  that  he 
did  not  relish  it.  Bapuji  talked  to  Pyarelalji  for  an 
hour.  Having  had  a  glass  of  fruit  juice  at  6.30  a.  m. 
Bapuji  started  off  for  his  morning  walk  and  continued 
his  talk  with  Pyarelalji.  On  his  return,  the  day’s  routine 
of  massage,  bath  etc.,  was  begun.  Bapuji  fell  asleep 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


28 

for  a  full  hour  during  the  massage.  He  feels  very  tired 
to  day  as  he  has  been  awake  and  working  since  1-30 
a.  m. 

For  his  morning  meal  he  had  barley  and  vegeta¬ 
ble,  8  oz.  of  milk  and  grapefruit.  Though  a  visit  to  Paliana 
(a  village  nearby)  had  been  arranged  by  one  of  the 
workers  of  the  village,  Bapuji  did  not  approve  of  the 
idea,  and  so  he  merely  sent  a  message  to  the  people 
of  the  hamlet.  It  contained  an  apology  for  being  unable 
to  visit  them;  an  appeal  to  the  Hindus  to  give  up 
untouchability,  and  to  all  communities  to  live  amica¬ 
bly  together.  As  men  of  all  classes  and  creeds  were 
created  by  the  one  God,  the  message  stated  at  the  end, 
they  should  love  one  another  and  behave  as  brothers. 

At  12-30  p.  m.  Bapuji  lay  down  to  rest.  While 
relaxing  thus,  he  dictated  a  letter  to  Suhrawardy 
Saheb.  ...  I  rubbed  ghee  on  his  legs.  Then  he  slept  for 
half  an  hour  from  1-30  to  2  p.  m.  And  then  he  drank 
a  glass  of  coconut  water.  As  it  is  cold  today  he  went 
outside,  sat  on  a  table  and  basked  in  the  sun,  had 
another  massage,  spun  his  usual  quota  of  yarn,  and 
listened  to  my  diary  at  the  same  time.  He  told  me 
once  again  to  note  down  only  the  main  ideas.  “But,  ” 
I  objected,  “  don’t  you  think  that  it  will  be  useful 
to  me  in  future,  if  I  can  remember  and  write  down 
every  word  that  you  say?” 

“  Yes,”  agreed  Bapuji,  “  my  heritage  to  you  all 
can  be  preserved  that  way.  Mahadev  used  to  do  exactly 
the  same.  He  wished  that  he  could  die  before  me, 
with  his  head  on  my  lap,  and  also  be  able  to  write 
a  faithful  account  of  my  life  and  work.  Of  these  two 
wishes,  God  fulfilled  the  one  that  he  wanted  the  most. 


THE  IMPORTANCE  OF  THE  DIARY  29 

.  .  .  Are  you  too,  like  Mahadev,  undertaking  the  task 
of  writing  my  biography?”* 

“  Ah  !  If  only  I  could  be  as  good  a  writer  as 
Mahadevbhai!  ”  I  said  wistfully. 

Bapu:  “In  that  case  you  must  learn  the  art  of 
rapidly  noting  down  all  that  I  say.  You  are  certainly 
quick  at  writing;  but  how  can  you  be  everywhere  at 
once  and  cope  with  all  the  work?  I  must  say,  however, 
that  I  would  like  you  to  make  notes  of  whatever  I  say 
as  they  will  teach  you  a  lot.” 

Bapuji  remarked  on  my  health  as  follows:  “  Here, 

I  am  your  mother,  and  you  must  tell  me  frankly 
whenever  you  feel  ill.  I,  for  one,  certainly  want  to 
be  a  living  testimony  that  an  adult  male,  also  can  be 
a  girl’s  mother  and  solve  her  various  problems.” 

In  this  way,  Bapuji,  I  find,  taught  me  a  good  many 
things.  These  I  had  noted  in  my  diary.  At  3.15  p.  m. 
Satishbabu  and  his  wife  Hemaprabhadevi  came  to 
see  Bapuji. 

He  talked  with  them  about  current  events  and  the 
present  situation,  and  then  began  his  day  of  silence 
at  7  p.  m.  Earlier,  at  4-45  p.  m.  he  had  for  his  evening 
meal  a  vegetable,  8  oz.  of  milk  and  two  oranges. 
Prayers  were  held.  This  was  followed  by  Bapu’s  even¬ 
ing  walk,  when  he  chatted  with  Mr.  England  and 
gave  him  a  send-off.  Returning  from  his  walk  he 
had  honey  and  warm  water  at  6-30  p.  m.  and  began 
to  correct  his  prayer  speech  which  is  now  a  daily 
feature  of  most  newspapers ;  I  doubled  his  yarn  at  the 
same  time.  It  came  to  80  double  rounds.  This  shows 
that  Bapuji  spun  160  single  rounds  in  an  hour.  Then 

*That  memory  of  Bapuji,  with  his  smiling  face,  presents 
itself  vividly  before  my  eyes  even  today  when  his  prophetic 
words  have  come  true. 


30 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


I  made  his  bed.  At  8-30  p.  m.  Bapuji  lay  down  on 
it  for  rest.  He  studied  his  Bengali  lesson  and  wrote 
down  its  alphabet,  while  reclining.  I  massaged  his 
legs,  rubbed  oil  and  finishing  my  work  at  10-30  p.  m. 
went  to  bed. 

Shrirampur, 
23-12-H6,  Monday 
No  need  to  get  up  early  today  as  it  is  Bapuji’s 
day  of  silence.  I  slept  on  till  prayer  time  when  Bapuji 
awakened  me.  After  prayers,  but  before  having  his 
warm  water,  Bapuji  wrote  up  his  diary  in  which 
he  observed: 

Excellent  sleep  today.  Woke  up  early  at  3.30  a.m. 
and  felt  unhappy.  How  shall  I  cope  with  the  large  amount 
of  work  here  ?  Where  do  my  precepts  of  non-violence  and 
efficiency  stand  in  the  present  context?  Do  they  meet  the 
challenge  of  the  situation  successfully?  These  questions, 
worry  me. 

After  his  glass  of  honey  in  warm  water,  he  wrote 
his  own  letters  today.  Among  them  was  one  to  Sane 
Guruji  in  which  he  gave  his  views  on  intercaste  meals, 
with  Harijans.  There  were  letters  to  Thakkar  Bapa,*' 
to  Manilal  Kakaf  and  to  my  father,  the  first  to  him 
from  Bapuji  after  my  coming  here.  This  is  the  letter: 

Dear  Jayasukhlal, 

It  is  due  to  Manudi  (who  reminded  me  just  now  at 
6  a.m.)  that  I  write  this  letter.  You  know  today  is  my 
silence  day,  when  I  have  time  to  write  more  letters  than 
usual. 

*Bapa=father.  A  title  given  by  the  people  for  his  un¬ 
tiring  service  to  the  cause  of  Harijan  and  aboriginal  betterment.. 
|Kaka=uncle;  Gandhiji’s  son  living  then  in  South  Africa 


THE  IMPORTANCE  OF  THE  DIARY 


31 


I  used  the  slivers  you  had  given  me  by  way  of  samples 
carded  by  Ratilal.  They  were  good  and  easy  to  spin.  For 
spinning  yarn  of  fine  counts  the  slivers  used  are  big  in  size 
and  held  by  the  hand  in  a  leaf  or  a  piece  of  paper.  May 
Ratilal’s  venture  succeed  fully! 

Manudi  is  happy  here  and  I  am  satisfied  with  her. 
I  learnt  from  her  that  you  recite  the  Ramayana  as  sweedy 
as  Parmanand  Gandhi  used  to.  I  was  sorry  that  I  knew 
it  too  late,  otherwise  I  would  surely  have  detained  you  and 
heard  your  recitation  of  the  Ramayana.  The  musical  notes 
of  Parmanand’s  voice  still  ring  in  my  ears.  How  could  you 
have  seen  him!  Kalidas  had  inherited  the  timbre  of  that 
voice  only  to  a  certain  extent. 

Regarding  our  meeting  in  future,  all  I  can  say  is  that 
God  will  arrange  the  meeting  when  he  wills.  Don’t  fail  to 
keep  in  mind  my  instruction. 

With  Blessings* 
Bapu 

“  God  may  arrange  the  meeting  ”  —  and  in 
reality  that  meeting  never  did  take  place!  When 
Bapuji  agreed  to  my  stay  with  him,  he  had  warned 
me,  “You  know  this  is  a  holy  sacrifice ;  and  our  old 
Puranic*  sacrifices  demand  perfect  purity  on  the  part 
of  the  performers.  Satanic  urges  in  man  such  as  lust* 
anger,  infatuation  etc.  have  to  be  totally  overcome. 
In  a  like  manner,  if  the  wish  to  see  your  father  or 
sisters  possesses  you,  say  after  2  months,  then  you  will 
have  failed  in  my  test.  ” 

But  by  God’s  grace,  Bapuji  felt,  after  the  passage 
of  some  time,  that  I  had  passed  his  test.  He  himself* 
therefore,  asked  Papa  in  1947  to  come  to  see  him  when 

*Puranas  contain  mythological  stories  written  for  the  masses 
for  their  spiritual  uplift. 


32 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


we  were  about  to  start  for  Karachi  via  Wardha. 
Unfortunately,  however,  Papa  could  come  only  when 
the  remains  of  Bapuji  were  being  carried  away  finally 
from  Birla  House  in  Delhi!  In  the  happy  anticipa¬ 
tion  of  meeting  Bapuji  at  long  last,  he  had  left  Mahuva 
for  Delhi;  but  alas!  God  willed  it  otherwise,  and  he 
could  not  see  Bapuji  after  all.  Inscrutable,  indeed, 
are  the  ways  of  the  Lord! 


V 

THREE  INVALUABLE  LESSONS 

Shrirampur, 
24-12-546,  Tuesday 

At  3  a.  m.  I  was@  roused  from  sleep  by  Bapuji. 
Letters  to  .  .  .  were  dictated.  After  about  three  such 
letters  it  was  time  for  prayers,  and  dictation  had  to 
stop.  Then  the  daily  routine  of  brushing  the  teeth, 
prayers,  etc.  was  gone  through.  After  a  glass  of  honey 
in  warm  water,  he  wrote  up  his  diary.  Then  at  6.30 
a.  m.  he  had  a  glass  of  pineapple  juice,  which  was 
a  local  product.  Pyarelalji  came  from  his  village  while 
Suchetabahen  Kripalani  arrived  earlier.  Bapuji  talked 
to  them  during  his  morning  walk.  They  left  for  their 
villages  when  it  was  time  for  Bapuji’s  massage. 

Owing  to  the  pressure  of  work  in  the  morning, 
Bapu  was  very  late  for  his  bath.  It  was  12-30  p.  m. 
when  he  returned  from  it  and  1.  p.  m.  when  he  had 
his  mid-day  meal.  Some  letters  to  Calcutta  had  to  be 
handed  personally  to  a  carrier  who  was  to  proceed 
with  them  immediately.  These  letters  kept  him  busy, 


THREE  INVALUABLE  LESSONS 


33 


and  made  him  late  for  his  bath.  For  lunch  he  had 
one  khakhara  and  some  kitu*  which  Pyarelalji  had 
left  with  us.  This  kitu  is  a  good  substitute  for  butter 
or  ghee.  So,  he  cut  down  his  quantity  of  milk  to  6  oz., 
and  did  not  have  any  butter.  He  partook  sparingly 
of  the  boiled  vegetable  that  was  served. 

While  eating  he  talked  to  Col.  Jivansinhaji.  It 
was  2  p.  m.  before  I  was  able  to  go  to  Bapuji  to  rub 
ghee  on  his  legs.  Even  then  I  was  not  able  to  have  my 
morning  meal.  Bapuji  felt  unhappy  about  this  delay 
regarding  my  food.  He  asked  me  to  bring  from  tomorrow 
my  dish  also  along  with  his  and  take  my  food  in  his 
company.  Meals  late  in  the  afternoon  are  customary 
here.  A  substantial  breakfast  in  the  morning,  then 
lunch  at  3  to  3.30  p.  m.,  tea  or  some  light  food  in  the 
evening  and  dinner  late  at  night  —  this  is  the  usual 
routine  here. 

But  Bapuji  said,  “  If  the  local  custom  does  not 
suit  us,  we  can  certainly  give  it  up.  To  get  up  very 
early  in  the  morning  and  have  our  dinner  late  at  10 
or  10-30  p.  m.  at  night  is  as  bad  for  us  as  taking  doses 
of  poison.” 

He  would  not  let  me  massage  his  legs  with  ghee 
for  more  than  5  minutes,  but  asked  me  to  take  my 
meal  immediately  and  to  have  only  a  fruit-diet  in 
the  evening. 

After  his  siesta  from  2-30  to  3  p.  m.  he  took  cocoa- 
nut  water  and  then  dictated  some  letters.  At  3-30 
p.  m.  his  spinning  began.  At  4-30  he  had  mud  packs 
on  his  head  and  stomach.  He  seems  to  be  a  little  tired; 
he  dozed  off  twice  while  listening  to  my  diary,  lying 
full  length  to  keep  the  mud  packs  in  position.  He 
asked  me  to  make  my  diary  briefer  than  usual. 

*Lump  of  condensed  cocoanut  oil. 


L-3 


34 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


At  4-45  p.  m.  Suchetabahen  and  others  came  in. 
He  was  closeted  with  them  for  private  talks. 

His  evening  meal  consisted  of  8  oz.  of  milk,  one 
plantain  and  one  grapefruit  only.  At  10  p.  m.  he  lay 
down  to  sleep. 

I  kept  awake  till  11p.m.  to  copy  Bapuji’s  diary 
of  yesterday.  The  weather  was  very  cold  with  heavy 
rains  today. 

(Bapu,  Shrirampur, 
25-12-’4S) 

Shrirampur, 
25-12-’46,  Wednesday 

Bapuji  had  sound  sleep  last  night  also.  He  got 
up  at  3.30  a.m.,  half  an  hour  before  the  prayer  time. 
After  brushing  his  teeth,  there  was  a  gap  of  5  minutes 
before  prayers;  he  used  it  to  sign  my  diary  and  write 
the  Bengali  alphabet. 

After  prayers,  he  snatched  a  nap  of  about  10 
minutes  before  taking  his  fruit  juice  and  signing  yester¬ 
day  s  letters.  He  asked  me  to  pick  up  Bengali  quickly. 

When  he  was  starting  for  his  morning  walk, 
Lavanyaprabhabahen  and  Mr.  England  arrived. 
With  them  were  Mr.  Glen  and  Mr.  Anthony  who 
had  brought  from  Dacca  a  Christmas  present  for 
Bapuji.  It  was  an  assortment  of  various  useful  articles 
such  as  a  cake  of  soap,  a  handkerchief,  a  razor,  a  pair 
of  scissors,  a  handbag,  etc.  Just  to  please  them  Bapuji 
promised  to  use  their  razor*  today. 

For  the  last  few  days  Bapuji  has  been  practising 
on  the  art  of  crossing  a  bridge  nearby.  It  is  a  short 


*It  was  a  pleasant  surprise  for  them  to  know  afterwards 
that  Bapuji  had  used  only  their  razor  throughout  the  pilgrimage. 


THREE  INVALUABLE  LESSONS 


35 


one,  but  for  persons  unaccustomed  to  it  it  is  rather 
hard  to  cross.  In  our  journey  onward,  we  shall  have 
to  cross  long  bridges  similar  to  this  one.  To  enable 
him  to  cross  them  he  is  practising  with  this  one.  When  - 
I  was  rubbing  ghee  on  his  legs,  Bapuji  was  engaged  in 
listening  to  some  complicated  correspondence  in 
English.  After  it  was  over  I  remarked,  “  Bapuji,  if 
you  had  allowed  me  to  go  to  a  college  to  study  up  to 
the  B.  A.  or  M.  A.  degree,  I  could  have  easily  helped 
you  even  with  your  correspondence  in  English.  But 
on  no  account  would  you  let  me  study  further.” 

“Then  what  have  you  to  say  when  I  tell  you,  I 
want  to  teach  you  both  knowledge  andjwisdom,  and 
not  mere  book-learning?”  argued  Bapu  in  reply. 

“  Could  Mahadevkaka  have  been  your  secretary,” 

I  rejoined,  “  if  he  had  not  been  so  learned?  And  all 
those  who  have  risen  to  greatness  have  been  degree- 
holders.  Could  they  have  been  so  great  without  having 
a  degree?” 

Bapuji  burst  into  a  laugh.  “  It  is  great  to  be  good, 
not  good  to  be  great,”  he  said.  “Rather  use  the  word 
upadhi*  for  the  word,  ‘degree’ ;  for  a  ‘degree’  is  nothing 
but  upadhi .  I  have  never  ceased  to  repent  my  blunder 
in  becoming  a  barrister.  That  is  why  I  am  glad  I  have 
not  thrown  ...  in  the  fire  of  upadhi ,  though  I  know,, 
they  are  by  no  means  happy  over  it.  The  fact  of  my 
being  a  barrister  has  gone  so  entirely  out  of  my  mind,, 
that  I  am  never  conscious  of  it  now.  So  from  my  experi¬ 
ence  I  thought,  ‘Let  me ‘save  others  at  least  from  it.’ 

I  grant  that  one  must  be  perfect  in  one’s  knowledge 
of  a  language,  but  what -goes  against  my  grain  is  this 

play  upon  the  Sanskrit  word  upadhi  wmen  means  both 
‘degree5  and  ‘worry5. 


I 


36  THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 

senseless  cramming,  so  indispensable  for  getting  a 
university  degree.  What  stupendous  work  lies  in  our 
villages  waiting  to  be  done  by  our  young  men!  The 
whole  face  of  the  country  would  change  and  glow  with 
health,  if  our  students  spent  only  that  time  in  construc¬ 
tive  work  which  they  waste  on  reading  and  cramming. 
It  would  indeed  be  a  different  thing  altogether  if  what 
impelled  them  was  a  thirst  for  knowledge  and  not  a 
craving  for  degrees  as  at  present.  Our  motto  should 
be,  ‘  Study  for  knowledge  and  knowledge  for  further 
study  ’.  But  the  present  student  thinks  of  nothing  but 
an  examination  and  then  more  reading  for  a  higher 
examination.  And  then?  That  knowledge  is  used  merely 
for  earning  money.  Some  become  doctors,  some  lawyers 
or  barristers  and  some  others  engineers.  All  of  them 
then  engage  in  a  wild  hunt  for  jobs. 

“  So  it  all  comes  to  a  mountain  in  labour  bringing 
forth  a  mouse.  The  only  purpose  behind  all  our  educa¬ 
tion  is  to  reach  to  the  highest  possible  rung  of  the  lad¬ 
der  of  service.  There  must  be  exceptions  to  this  rule 
of  course.  I  don’t  mean  to  say  that  literally  every  one 
in  our  huge  population  of  400  millions  has  only 
this  object  in  view.  But  there  is  no  doubt  that  this  is 
the  guiding  principle  universally  acknowledged  by 
our  students.  Then  again,  it  is  a  delusion  to  think 
that  one  can  render  service  only  if  one  is  endow¬ 
ed  with  a  particular  minimum  of  education.  What¬ 
ever  the  circumstances  in  which  a  man  is  placed,  he 
can  render  service  if  he  so  wills.  God  has  granted  such 
a  variety  of  powers  to  man,  that  none  can  be  with¬ 
out  any  and  so  none  can  excuse  himself  from  serving 
others.  Were  it  not  so,  human  nature  is  so  diabolical 
that  it  would  never  be  in  want  of  excuses  if  the  desire 
for  service  were  wanting.  Look  around  and  you  will 


THREE  INVALUABLE  LESSONS 


37 


find  that  if  some  have  money  to  offer  for  service,  some 
others  have  a  strong  physique.  If  one  man  can  use  his 
intelligence,  another  can  employ  his  tongue,  his  hands 
and  feet,  in  fact  all  his  senses  in  the  service  of  others. 
These  instances,  I  gave  you,  are  just  a  few  from  the  many 
many  ways  in  which  one  can  be  of  help  to  others.  So, 
all  we  should  do  to  get  the  fullest  marks  is  to  dedicate 
all  we  have,  to  God.  He^who  has  the  capacity  to  give 
a  million  but  gives  only  half  a  million  will  get  50%, 
while  the  one  who  can  afford  to  give  only  a  penny  will 
secure  100%  if  he  gives  that  little  penny,  willingly. 

“What  is  essential  is  honest,  untainted  action.  That 
is  definitely  not  service  which  is  given  out  of  self-inte¬ 
rest  or  fear.  There  is  absolutely  no  room  for  selfishness 
where  it  is  a  question  of  dedication  to  God.  Whoever 
serves  in  this  true  spirit  of  service  enhances  his  power 
every  day.  Even  his  occupational  activity  will  be 
imbued  with  the  spirit  of  service.  Whoever  is  thus 
saturated  with  love  for  true  service,  expresses  it  through 
his  whole  being  and  through  all  his  activities,  however 
trivial  they  be,  such  as  laughing,  eating,  speaking  etc. 
All  his  actions  will  be  full  of  purity  and  perfection. 
Such  selfless  devotees  are  endowed  by  God  with  all  the 
powers  they  require.  With  that  very  object,  God 
proclaims  in  the  Bhagavadgita : 


“  Those  single-hearted  souls 
Who  always  think  of  Me 
And  nothing  else  but  Me 
Are  saved  by  Me  already. 
Their  burden  I  bear  myself 
And  lift  them  on  to  Me. 


(IX-22) 


38 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


They  think  of  none  but  Me; 

Their  hearts,  their  lives 
In  Me  are  fixed;  to  Me 
Their  talks  pertain.  In  Me 
Their  love  and  all  their  glee; 

Their  souls  are  glued  to  Me. 

To  them  I  give  the  Light 
Oi  Truth  and  Wisdom  deep, 

Whereby  they  come  to  Me 

As  comes  to  a  flower  the  bee.  (X-9, 10) 

ce  I  want  you  to  reflect  deeply  over  these  verses. 
The  last  of  them  is  specially  pregnant  with  deep  meaning 
and  is  the  weightiest.  What  is  wanted  here  (for 
attaining  this  state)  is  deep  faith.  Now  how  can  you 
use  your  learned  degrees  in  doing  God’s  work  this 
way  ?  This  is  what  I  want  to  impress  upon  your  mind. 
And  where  would  you,  too,  have  been  in  this  most 
serious  matter  in  human  life,  if  you  had  continued  your 
studies  and  were  attending  some  college  at  present? 
If  I  had  my  way  I  would  hurl  ail  collegians,  boys  and 
girls,  in  the  midst  of  these  communal  frays  an/d  stop 
them  thereby.  In  all  earnestness  I  assert  that  if  our 
students  can  shake  off  this  blind  infatuation  for  degrees 
you  will  find  that  India  which  is  but  a  speck  on  the 
map  of  the  world  will  soon  grow  to  the  size  of  an  ocean. 
That  wise  and  significant  saying,  c  Cut  your  coat 
according  to  the  cloth  ’,  applies  not  only  to  a  small 
family,  but  also  to  countries  of  a  colossal  size.  Our 
modes  of  living  as  well  as  our  activities  must  fit  in  with 
the  country  we  belong  to.  But  in  aping  the  English¬ 
man  we  invite  disaster.  Don’t  you  know  the  fable  of 
the  swan  who  refused  to  imitate  the  gait  of  the  crow 
and  so  saved  himself  from  death,  and  won?  These 
fables  are  not  stories  merely  for  a  few  minutes’  pastime. 


THREE  INVALUABLE  LESSONS 


59 


Every  one  of  them  is  charged  with  wisdom.  I  admit, 
many  evil  customs  do  prevail  in  India.  And  still,  it  is 
certain  that  the  country  can  rise  to  a  glory  yet 
undreamt,  if  only  she  kept  to  her  natural  gait  in  her 
onward  march. 

“I  affirm  it  so  confidently,  because  the  civilization 
of  India  is  in  its  grandeur  unique  and  incomparable. 
As  I  go  on  explaining  the  Bhagavadgita,  newer  and 
more  pregnant  meanings  of  the  verses  will  reveal 
themselves  to  me.  But  this  is  quite  enough  for  the  day; 
more  than  enough,  if  you  can  assimilate  into  your 
inner  self  all  I  have  said  today.  Write  it  down  for 
future  use.  But,  mind  you,  4  writing  down  5  does  not 
mean  scribbling,  without  a  conscious  purpose  behind. 
It  is  to  be  written  down  as  a  means  to  your  absorption 
of  the  wisdom  of  the  Gita.  Today’s  entire  lesson  is 
based  on  the  Gita.” 

From  a  trivial  remark  dropped  by  me  in  a  light¬ 
hearted  mood,  I  had  the  good  fortune  to  be  treated 
for  a  full  25  minutes  to  a  thrilling,  soul-uplifting  disco¬ 
urse  and  was  taught  a  lesson  to  be  treasured  for  life. 
And  then,  as  the  time  was  up,  he  got  up  from  his  bed. 

I  felt  grieved  at  the  thought  that  Bapuji  was 
deprived  of  his  sleep  on  my  account.  Before  I  could 
express  my  feeling,  however,  Bapuji  himself  said,  “You 
need  not  be  sorry  that  I  had  no  sleep  today.  The 
way  in  which  God  sustains  me  is  itself  a  wonder.  You 
know  I  got  up  very  early  and  I  had  not  a  wink  of  sleep 
during  the  massage;  I  was  engaged  in  a  talk  with 
Satishbabu  who  had  come  specially  to  discuss  the 
details  of  my  route  of  the  pilgrimage.  And  now  from 
your  casual  remark  I  poured  forth  what  was  stored  in 
my  heart  for  you.  But  now,  instead  of  getting  tired, 


40 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


I  feel  refreshed!  So  don’t  worry,  and  bring  me  a  glass 
of  cocoanut-water.  If  God  wills,  I  can  still  have  a  nap 
during  the  period  when  the  mud  packs  are  on  me.” 

At  about  4  p.  m.,  an  excellent  public  worker 
brought,  on  Bapuji’s  instructions,  my  Punjabi  suit 
made  by  a  tailor.  He  refused  to  accept  the  tailoring 
charge,  because  he  was  devoutly  attached  to  Bapuji 
and  I  was  introduced  to  him  by  Bapuji  as  a  member 
of  his  family  and  as  his  grand-daughter. 

But  Bapuji’s  view  of  the  matter  was  quite  different. 
“  How  ever  can  you  find  the  money  to  pay  the  tailor’s 
bill?”  he  put  in  rather  strongly.  “  What  you  possess 
is  public  property  and  you  have  no  right  to  waste  a 
pie  of  it  on  any  private  matter  —  be  it  for  my  needs. 
Besides,  the  girl’s  father  can  afford  that  expense  .  .  . 
The  public  worker  must  know  how  and  where  to  use 
public  money  in  the  right  manner.  Your  offer  today 
was  of  course  in  the  case  of  Manu,  but  what  guarantee 
is  there  that  you  may  not  similarly  waste  public  money 
on  your  own  relatives?  Not  that  I  doubt  you.  Not 
at  all,  for  I  know  you  quite  well.  I  know  it  was  love 
that  prompted  your  offer,  but  be  on  your  guard  from 
what  I  have  said.” 

This  was  my  second  lesson  and  my  third,  very 
useful,  lesson  was  given  at  night  in  the  same  way,  inci¬ 
dentally. 

I  had  a  piece  of  warm  woollen  pashmina*  shawl 
which  Bapuji  used  to  tie  on  his  head  as  a  preventive 
against  cold.  But  it  was  very  old  and  torn.  So  I  gave 
him  a  new  woollen  piece,  when  we  returned  from 

*A  product  of  Kashmir,  noted  for  its  softness,  warmth  and 
thinness. 


THREE  INVALUABLE  LESSONS 


41 


the  prayers.  But  Bapuji  would  have  none  of  it.  “Nei¬ 
ther  you  nor  I  earn  a  pie,”  he  objected.  “And  unlike 
you  I  have  no  father  to  earn  money  for  my  expenses. 
You  see,  I  am  but  a  poor  man.  How  can  I  afford  to 
throw  away  the  shawl  in  that  cavalier  fashion?  Give 
it  to  me.  I  shall  patch  it  up  myself.”  So  he  kept  awake 
till  11.30  p.m.  doing  this  job  of  mending. 

It  was  certainly  very  neatly  patched.  Only  a 
tailor  or  a  skilful  housewife  could  have  done  the  work 
so  well.  The  stitches  formed  quite  a  straight  line. 

His  was  a  great  and  revered  name.  A  word  from 
him  and  hundreds  of  new  pashmina  pieces  would  have 
piled  up  at  his  feet.  But  he  chose  to  use  that  patched- 
up  piece  all  through  the  pilgrimage. 

The  man  who  knitted  India  ‘into  a  nation,  the 
man  who  patched  up  quarrels  and  joined  sundered 
hearts  was  equally  at  home  at  patching  a  piece  of 
cloth.  “Won’t  you  agree,”  he  asked  me  in  a  jovial 
mood,  “that  I  am  a  skilful  tailor?” 

I  had  certainly  offered  to  patch  him  the  piece, 
but  he  would  not  let  me,  and  had  said,  “Oh!  just 
wait  and  watch  how  I  do  it.  You  shall  be  my  examiner 
in  this  art.”* 

Thus  in  one  day  I  was  taught  three  lessons  —  all 
so  valuable  that  I  cannot  say  which  one  was  the  best. 


^Fortunately,  that  needle  and  that  reel  of  thread  as  well 
as  the  patched  piece  are  still  with  me,  preserved  as  a  precious 
memento  and  as  an  object-lesson  which,  among  many  others, 
he  taught  me. 


VI 

PANDITJTS  VISIT 


Shrirampur, 

26-12-’46 

Bapuji  woke  up  at  3  a.  m.  Dictated  letters  to.  .  .  . 
It  was  very  cold  then.  Bapuji  continued  to  lie  down 
and  dozed  off  to  sleep  twice  or  thrice  during  the  dicta¬ 
tion.  These  gaps  I  utilized  in  copying  for  myself  Bapu¬ 
ji 's  diary.  I  have  yet  to  copy  his  diary  of  the  last  two 
days.  Bapuji,  indeed,  asked  me  not  to  undergo  that 
^unnecessary  trouble’  as  he  called  it.  But  I  said, 
"  You  often  refer  to  me  in  your  diary.  Those  references 
I  can  have  with  me  all  through  my  life,  only  if  I  copy 
them  in  my  notebook.” 

.  .  .  was  not  present  in  the  prayers  today. 

.  .  .  did  not  return  from  Kazirkhil  last  night.  Bapuji 
was  therefore  very  cross.  He  talked  with  .  .  .  about  .  .  . 
after  the  prayers,  and  revised  yesterday’s  prayer  speech. 
I  gave  him  his  warm  water  and  wrote  my  diary.  After 
spinning  for  half  an  hour,  he  went  out  for  his  morning 
walk.  He  was  absorbed  in  thought  throughout  the 
walk.  Talked  with  .  .  .  only.  The  practice  of  crossing 
the  bridge  continues  as  usual.  When  I  was  washing 
his  feet,  he  asked  .  .  .  the  reason  for  being  absent  from 
the  prayers,  and  talked  with  ...  for  a  long  time.  Regard¬ 
ing  .  .  .  who  had  not  taken  Bapuji’ s  permission  before 
going,  Bapuji  said  to  .  .  .,  “I  have  no  claim  over  him. 
He  treats  me  as  his  father,  so  I  thought  it  my  duty  to 
tell  him  so  much.  If  he  gives  me  up,  I  shall  feel  very 
happy.  This  girl  (meaning  me)  also  can  leave  me,  if 
she  likes.  But  for  me,  I  have  bound  myself  by  a  promise 
to  her  that  I  for  one  am  not  going  to  give  her  up,  as 

42 


43 


PANDITJl’s  VISIT 

long  as  I  am  alive  though  she  is  free  to  leave  me. 
You,  too,  can  leave  me.  Only  then  shall  I  be  tested. 
Could  it  not  be  that  God  creates  such  unforeseen  inci¬ 
dents  just  because  He  wants  to  test  me?  He  (‘the  son  ) 
thinks  that  I  have  committed  a  blunder,  in  staying 
in.  .  .  .  But  I  entirely  disagree.  It  is,  however  in  such 
circumstances,  that  I  am  sorely  tried.”  Bapuji  thus 
unburdened  his  heavy  heart  when  he  said  all  this  to 
...  in  a  very  earnest  tone. 

As  I  loitered  to  hear  this  talk,  I  was  late  for  my 
bath,  and  that  upset  the  whole  programme  of  the  day. 
So  when  I  began  to  rub  ghee  on  Bapuji’s  legs  he  re¬ 
buked  me  for  this  lapse.  “I  don’t  like  this,”  he  said, 
'‘However  interesting  a  talk,  you  should  not  let  it  spoil 
the  daily  routine.  It  is  true,  however,  that  my  talk 
with  .  .  .  was  certainly  one  that  you,  too,  could  profit 
by.  So  I  would  like  to  excuse  you  from  rubbing  ghee 
on  my  legs.  But  that  you  would  not  like.  So  now  you 
have  to  put  forth  all  your  tact  and  skill  in  hastening 
your  pace  of  work  so  as  to  catch  up  with  the  lost  time. 
But  that  doesn’t  mean,  mind  you,  that  you  can  run 
back  to  me  by  swallowing  hasty  morsels  of  food.” 

News  came  by  wire  that  Pandit  Jawaharlalji  is 
coming  here  tomorrow,  the  27th  instant.  Bapuji 
talked  with  Nirmalbabu  regarding  arrangements 
for  his  stay  and  asked  me  to  take  his  commode  to 
Jawaharlalji’s  room.  His  meals  were  to  be  provided 
for  by  Col.  Jivansinhaji’s  men  of  the  I.N.A. 

In  the  afternoon  Bapuji  listened  to  my  yesterday’s 
diary  as  well  as  today’s  though  it  was  incomplete.  He 
glanced  over  it  but  has  not  signed  it  yet. 

He  gave  up  the  evening  meal  altogether  today 
but  took  only  warm  water  and  honey  after  the  prayers. 
Then  he  spun  for  half  an  hour. 


44 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


A  napkin  which  Bapuji  used  was  torn  to  shreds. 
Remembering  the  incident  of  the  pashmina  shawl, 
I  tried  my  best  to  think  of  a  way  of  mending  it  and 
then  returning  it  to  him  all  nicely  mended.  But  with 
my  best  efforts  I  found  it  impossible  to  do  so.  So  I 
had  to  put  a  new  napkin  in  Bapuji’s  hands.  Immedia¬ 
tely  he  protested,  “The  old  napkin  can  still  be  used.” 
I  was  sure  that  however  much  Bapuji  may  try,  no  patch 
could  be  of  any  use;  stitching  too  was  impossible  and 
that  even  darning  the  torn  parts  was  equally  so.  I, 
therefore,  hastened  to  speak  out  in  a  decisive  tone,  “I 
have  exerted  my  brain  fairly  long  over  it  and  found 
that  nothing  can  be  done  with  it.  There’s  no  go  but 
to  scrap  it.  What  will  you  do  with  it  now?” 

Bapuji  laughed  aloud.  Lovingly  he  pulled  my 
ear  and  said,  “And  suppose  I  repair  it  so  well  that  it 
can  last  me  two  months  more?” 

“Impossible”,  I  asserted.  “You  never  can.”  I  defied 
him  to  do  so. 

Bapuji  took  up  the  challenge.  First  he  doubled 
it  as  it  was,  then  sewed  it  with  stitches  like  those  on 
thin  cotton  quilts,  and  then  darned  the  holes.  And 
really  the  napkin  was  repaired  well  enough  to  last 
at  least  two  months  more. 

But  with  a  child’s  insistence,  I  took  it  away  form 
him,  declaring,  “It  shall  remain  with  me  as  a  model.” 
That  napkin  is  so  beautiful  that,  looking  from  above, 
designs  like  those  we  find  on  quilts  can  be  seen  on  it, 
and  there  is  no  doubt  that  it  is  now  much  more  durable. 

I  had  thus  a  new  lesson,  altogether  different  from 
the  one  from  the  pashmina  shawl,  of  Bapuji’s  ingenious 
skill  as  a  craftsman  and  his  fine  sense  of  art  and  thrift. 

A  lady  doctor  from  Bombay  offered  to  stay  here 
for  voluntary  service  in  the  Noakhali  district.  Bapuji 


45 


PANDITJl’s  VISIT 

told  her,  “You  are  quite  welcome  here.  Only  first 
get  Suhrawardy  Saheb’s  permission.” 

At  9.30  p.m.  Bapuji  listened  to  the  whole  of  my 
diary,  signed  it  and  then  went  to  bed. 

[Bapu] 

Shrirampur, 

27-12-’46 

Bapuji  woke  up  at  2  a.m.  and  awakened  me.  A 
suit  in  the  Punjabi  style,  of  sulwar  and  kurta,  was 
made  from  chintz.  Bapuji  asked  me,  “Did  you 
specify  to  .  .  .the  quality  of  cloth  —  chintz  or  any 
such  —  which  you  would  like  to  have?” 

“No,”  I  replied.  “That  cloth  has  not  been  brou¬ 
ght  by.  ...  It  is  Birlaji’s  men  who  brought  it,  as 
asked  by  you.” 

“I  see,”  said  Bapuji.  “Then  how  can  it  be  less 
than  Ax  in  quality?  Now  that  it  has  come,  it’s  wel¬ 
come.  But  you  will  wear  it  out  in  daily  use.  If  you 
feel  that  you  look  beautiful  in  such  quality  clothes, 
drive  out  that  feeling.  I  will  tell  you  why,  by  an 
instance.  Man  seasons  his  food  into  sweet,  sour,  or 
pungent,  just  to  make  it  more  tasteful  to  the  palate. 
But  if  he  cherishes  the  idea  that  his  body  is  a  holy 
temple  for  God  to  live  in,  that  it  can  have  only  one 
use  —  that  of  service  —  and  that  he  should  therefore 
take  only  healthy  and  nourishing  diet  to  maintain  it 
for  such  service,  then  his  life  becomes  a  poem  of  exqui¬ 
site  spiritual  beauty.  In  the  same  way,  clothes  are 
for  covering  the  body  and  for  its  protection  from  heat 
and  cold,  not  for  showing  oneself  off  in  the  latest 
fashion.  There  is  such  a  craze  for  fashion  these  days ! 
The  modern  girl  struts  about  in  a  superfine  (almost 
transparent)  sari  and  a  sleeveless  blouse  which,  too,  is 


46 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


equally  fine,  and  very  tight  in  addition.  I  am  fed 
up  with  these  many  nasty  sights  I  see  nowadays.  ‘Will 
our  women,  the  custodians  of  our  culture,  give  up  their 
valuable  possession  of  modesty?’  is  the  painful  ques¬ 
tion  that  churns  my  soul. 

“Tight  clothes  retard  free  breathing  and  weaken 
the  lungs.  That  makes  our  women  fall  a  prey  to 
tuberculosis.  Among  the  many  causes  of  women, 
more  than  men,  falling  victims  to  that  fell  disease  is 
this  one  of  succumbing  to  a  harmful  fashion. 


“The  same  is  the  case  with  the  hair.  I  have  al¬ 


ready  told  you  of  the  need  for  simplicity  in  hair  styles 
also.  I  again  repeat  that  the  greater  the  simplicity 
in  doing  the  hair,  the  more  beautiful  its  appearance. 
The  hair  protects  the  head  also.  Every  one  of  God’s 
gifts  has  a  purpose  behind  it  —  that  of  its  proper  use. 
There  is  nothing  in  the  world  that  is  useless. 

“There  is  one  other  thing  I  wish  to  mention.  You 
are  not  to  waste  your  time  in  idle  chatter  with  .  .  . 
or  any  one  else.  You  and  .  .  .  are  now  grown-ups.. 
I  shall  give  you  an  example  from  my  own  life.  Be 
warned.  In  my  adolescence  I  fell  in  with  bad  com¬ 
pany,  which  made  me  take  flesh  and  steal  a  golden 
bracelet.  Two  individuals  can  benefit  by  each  other’s 
company  only  if  they  have  equal  powers  of  discrimi¬ 
nation  and  are  both  determined  to  emulate  each  other’s 


virtues  and  eschew  each  other’s  vices.  Generally,  how¬ 
ever,  they  pick  up  each  other’s  faults,  and  bring  about 
the  fall  of  both.  So  you  shouldn’t  talk  to  any  one 
more  than  necessary  for  the  purpose  at  hand.  Virtue 
can  surely  drive  out  vice,  but  can  vice  ever  drive  out 
vice?  ...  is  very  clever,  but  sometimes  a  single 
weakness  of  such  a  baneful  type  gets  into  a  man  as 
coveis  up  all  his  virtues.  It  seems  to  me  that  perhaps. 


4? 


PANDITJl’s  VISIT 

God  endows  a  man  with  a  hundred  virtues  but  also  with 
a  single  vice  of  that  type  in  order  to  test  him  and  then 
see  how  he  fares  under  the  test.  If  a  man  thoroughly 
understands  the  nature-  of  his  particular  vice,  and 
fully  realizes  how  much  it  harms  him,  then  he  is  saved. 
That  man  ceases  to  be  an  erring  human  being.  He, 
for  one,  is  absorbed  in  the  Power  Infinite.  True 
grandeur  and  majesty  lie  in  such  manhood.” 

It  was  in  the  darkness  of  the  night  between  2.30 
and  3.30  a.m.  that  Bapuji  explained  to  me  this  philo¬ 
sophy  of  right  living.  As  there  was  still  some  time  to 
go  before  prayers,  he  signed  my  diary  of  the  last  two 
days.  He  remarked,  £<I  didn’t  know  you  could  write 
such  long  detailed  diaries,  but  I  like  them.  You  must 
make  it  a  point  to  get  your  diary  read  and  signed 
by  me.  You  won’t  appreciate  today  the  value  of  my 
signature  in  your  diary.  But  it  will  bear  a  sure  testi¬ 
mony  to  the  fact  that  I  pour  forth  my  whole  heart  in 
whatever  I  tell  you.  Besides,  as  you  are  still  of  minor 
age,  it  is  necessary  that  your  diary  notes  should  be 
signed  by  me  to  make  them  authentic.  So  take  care 
that  my  signatures  don’t  get  into  arrears.  What  a 
short  time  it  takes  to  read  and  sign  them!  See!  I  am 
training  you  like  a  mother  her  beloved  daughter.” 

As  Jawaharlalji  was  expected  here,  a  trench 
latrine*  was  made  for  him.  Bapuji  suggested  some 
improvements  from  the  ordinary  type.  This  work 
took  up  the  whole  morning. 

The  routine  programme  was  followed  for  the  rest 
of  the  day.  He  had  his  usual  food  for  the  morning 
meal.  In  the  evening,  he  had  a  khakhara  and  milk. 

*An  improvised  latrine  with  mats  as  walls,  two  long 
wooden  planks  to  sit  upon  and  a  trench  for  the  excreta. 


48 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


Bapuji  said  he  had  some  appetite  today.  As  he  was 
closeted  for  nearly  the  whole  day  in  a  talk  with  .  .  . 
and  as  it  was  private,  I  had  something  like  off-time. 
So  I  finished  all  my  writing  work. 

.  .  .  had  called  for  antiphlogistine,  but  Bapuji 
had  some  black  earth  powdered  and  sieved  through 
a  very  fine  piece  of  cloth  and  sent  it  to  .  .  .  with 
instructions  to  apply  it,  in  paste  form  by  first  wetting 
the  earth  with  a  little  water  to  make  it  damp  and  soft, 
and  then  heating  the  lump  before  application. 
Bapuji  at  least  believes  that  such  a  paste  of  heated 
earth  is  more  efficacious  than  even  antiphlogistine. 

[Bapu] 

Bapuji  wrote  in  his  diary: 

Got  up  at  2  a.m. ;  at  2.15  woke  up  Manudi.  Made 
her  understand  the  temperament  of.  .  .  .  Talked  to  her 
about  the  need  for  simplicity  in  clothes  and  in  hair  styles, 
and  asked  her  not  to  waste  time  in  chats  with  ...  or  any 
one  else.  Showed  her  how  one’s  company  affects  one’s 
character  very  often.  Explained  to  her  the  importance  of 
my  signature.  She  understood  it  quite  well.  Talked  with 
..  .  .  after  the  prayers  for  a  fairly  long  time.  Did  my  Bengali 
lesson.  It  was  5.45  p.  m.  by  then.  ...  is  ill.  Wrote  to 
her  that  no  doctor  or  Ayurvedic  physician  need  be  called 
from  outside.  She  should  rely  for  her  cure  on  God  of  the 
five  Elements*  and  use  them  (or  any  of  them)  in  the  way 
she  likes  best. 

Thakkarbapa  has  arrived.  Jawaharlalji  and 
others  were  to  come,  but  they  have  not  arrived  as  yet, 

*Elements  or  rather  the  fundamentals  are  earth,  water,  fire, 
air  and  ether.  Matter  is  composed  of  these  fundamentals  without 
which  its  composition  is  impossible,  according  to  ancient  Hindu 
thought.  Gandhiji  suggests  nature  cure  treatment. 


PANDITJl’s  VISIT  49 

though  it  is  9.30  p.m.  Some  talk  with  Thakkarbapa. 
Spun  70  rounds.  Preparation  for  sleep  9.30  p.m. 

Shrirampur, 

28-12-’46 

Bapuji  woke  up  at  2.30  a.m.  Asked  me  to  go  to 
sleep  again  after  providing  him  with  a  lantern.  Wrote 
all  his  letters  in  his  own  hand.  I  was  awakened  at 
prayer  time.  Prayers  were  followed  by  the  daily 
routine.  Jawaharlalji  and  Mridulabahen  came  at 
7.30  a.m.,  when  Bapuji  was  about  to  go  out  for  a  walk. 
They  accompanied  him.  Panditji  was  much  amused 
at  the  sight  of  aged  Bapuji  training  himself  to  cross 
the  bridge.  As  for  Panditji,  he  crossed  it  in  two 
bounds.  On  our  return,  Bapuji  asked  me  to  see  that 
Jawaharlalji  was  comfortably  provided  for.  Under 
Bapuji’s  express  instructions,  I  had  taken  his  commode 
to  Jawaharlalji’s  room.  But  as  soon  as  Panditji  saw 
it,  he  got  angry  with  me.  “Have  you  not  sense  enough 
to  know  what  great  inconvenience  Bapu  will  be  put 
to  ?  How  can  I  ever  use  his  commode  ?  I  am  certain¬ 
ly  not  so  delicate  as  all  that!”  “But  I  brought  it  on 
Bapu’s  instructions,”  I  put  in  in  self-defence. 

That  made  him  the  more  enraged.  “You  ought 
to  have  the  guts  to  stand  Bapu’s  displeasure.  It  is 
you  who  are  responsible  for  his  health  and  comforts. 
Isn’t  it  your  duty  then  to  see  what  he  needs,  when, 
and  how  much?  Bapu  is  a  man  who  would  gladly 
go  through  any  hardship  himself  to  provide  comforts 
to  others!  Such  is  he.  But,  I  repeat,  I  am  a  man 
in  the  prime  of  youth.  I  can  go  anywhere  to  ease 
myself,  but  you  must  never  give  away  to  others,  like 
this,  the  things  that  Bapu  needs,  even  if  he  kills  you 
for  disobedience.  However,  don’t  be  afraid;  Bapu 
will  never  kill  or  beat  you.” 

L-4 


50 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


Before  finishing  these  last  words,  all  his  anger 
had  evaporated  and  his  face  was  beaming  with  good 
humour.  Just  as  an  elder  of  the  family  cheers  up  a 
child  immediately  after  rebuking  it  for  some  fault, 
paternal  love  surged  up  in  his  heart  and  he  rushed  to 
fold  me  in  his  arms  in  a  close  embrace.  It  was  an 
altogether  different  Jawaharlal  who  then  said,  “Go 
and  tell  Bapu,  Jawaharlal  forbids  it.”  And  then 
rained  a  series  of  questions  from  him  inquiring  after 
Bapu’s  health,  his  diet  etc. 

Who  can  be  unaware  of  Panditji’s  deep  devotion 
to  Bapuji?  But  I  felt  a  sense  of  hallowed  bliss  at  this 
fresh  manifestation  of  it  before  my  own  eyes.  During 
the  flow  of  this  sage  advice  words  came  out  of  his 
surging  Keart,  now  loudly  and  in  a  gush  of  good  spiri  ts, 
now  very  slowly  but  from  the  depth  of  his  heart  and 
then  genially  and  in  very  good  humour.  These  vary¬ 
ing  tones  and  words  remained  in  my  memory  long 
after  their  sound  was  still. 

As  Bapuji  was  deeply  engrossed  in  writing  some¬ 
thing,  I  snatched  the  opportunity  of  this  free  time  in 
writing  down  Jawaharlalji’s  words  there  and  then. 
All  of  Bapuji’s  personal  needs  like  massage,  bath,  etc., 
have  yet  to  be  attended  to.  It  is  likely  to  be  very 
late  today.  As  I  was  massaging  Bapuji,  I  told  him 
how  emphatic  Jawaharlalji  was  in  his  refusal  to  use 
the  commode. 

That  is  Jawahar  all  over.  He  will  never  use  it 
now.  Bring  it  back  to  me,”  was  all  that  Bapuji  com¬ 
mented. 

Thakkarbapa,  too,  has  dragged  himself  here, 
quite  a  distance!  “The  labour  he  puts  forth  at  this 
age  is  so  Herculean  that  the  most  robust  young  man 


51 


PANDITJl’s  VISIT 

has  to  feel  ashamed  before  him.”  This  is  Bapuji’s 
language  in  appreciation  of  Thakkarbapa. 

During  meal  time,  Bapuji  talked  chiefly  with 
Jawaharlalji.  He  gave  Panditji  one  khakhara ,  a  lump 
of  condensed  cocoanut  oil,  as  also  the  liquid  oil  which 
Pyarelalji  had  specially  sent  for  the  occasion.  As  he 
did  so,  Bapuji  observed,  “For  dwellers  in  regions 
where  cocoanuts  grow,  there  is  no  necessity  whatever 
to  use  cereals.  Cocoanut  water  itself  is  as  good  as 
food.  Cocoanut  milk  is  still  more  substantial.  Oil 
can  be  pressed  out  from  a  cocoanut  very  easily,  and  is 
far  more  nourishing  than  the  adulterated  ghee  we 
get  nowadays.  Even  its  waste,  left  after  extracting 
oil,  can  be  used  in  making  sweetmeat  called  sandesh 
in  Bengali.  Bapuji  gave  that,  too,  to  Jawaharalalji 
to  taste  as  a  sample.  There  are  extensive  tracts  in 
India  today  where  cocoanut  and  palm  industries  can 
be  developed,  and  a  sizable  quantity  of  cereals  can  thus 
be  saved.  Nature  has  lavished  her  gifts  on  Bengal 
very  extravagantly  and  yet  the  condition  of  the  masses 
there  is  miserable.  I  don’t  see  any  other  cause  for  this 
contradiction  except  the  fact  that  the  people  are 
sunk  in  lethargy.  Nature  has  given  us  in  profuse 
abundance,  but  it  is  our  idleness  which  eats  into  our 
vitals  like  cancer.” 

After  this  table-talk,  both  of  them  were  engaged 
in  a  serious  private  conference  for  an  hour  and  a  half. 

Even  the  lapse  of  time  has  not  erased  the  memory 
of  that  notable  occasion.  The  meeting  between 
Bapu  and  Panditji  was  like  that  of  a  wise  son  who 
meets  his  father  after  a  long  separation  and  candidly 
relates  to  him  all  the  events  that  had  happened  in  his 
absence  and  feels  relieved  on  getting  the  father’s 
guidance  for  future  moves.  Both  these  great  men 


52 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


were  sitting  on  an  ordinary  bed,  in  a  simple  mud  hut, 
but  they  were  discussing  momentous  questions  relating 
to  the  country’s  past,  present  and  future.  All  that  had 
happened  since  Bapuji  left  Delhi  for  here,  the  events 
now  taking  place  in  the  country  and  those  that  are 
likely  to  happen  in  the  future,  as  well  as  the  correct¬ 
ness  or  otherwise  of  the  ways  in  which  those  problems 
were  or  are  being  tackled  formed  the  topics  of  that 
grave  deliberation.  It  was  a  unique  conference.  Had 
I  been  an  artist,  I  would  have  portrayed  Jawaharlalji 
sitting  for  consultation  by  Bapuji’s  side  and  taking  his 
advice  for  a  future  course  of  action  rather  than  penned 
these  lines  as  best  I  could. 

Bapuji  spent  the  whole  time  from  11  a.m.  to  3.30 
p.m.  in  a  series  of  talks  with  Panditji,  Saakarravji, 
Kripalaniji  and  other  guests  one  after  another. 

In  order  not  to  let  the  time  of  his  guests  be  wasted, 
Bapuji  began  his  silence  in  the  afternoon  at  3.30  p.m. 
(instead  of  7  p.m.  as  usual).  He  will  thereby  begin 
talks  with  them  at  3.30  p.m.  tomorrow.  The  evening 
prayer  was  attended  by  all  the  guests  and  Jawahar¬ 
lalji  and  Kripalaniji  delivered  lectures  at  the 
prayer  meeting. 

Bapuji  felt  very  tired  in  the  evening,  so  he  took 
only  6  oz.  of  milk  and  some  fruit.  Dr.  Ramamanohar 
Lohia  came  at  9  p.m. 

Bapuji  went  to  bed  at  9.30  p.m. 

Shrirampur, 

29-12-’46 

Bapuji  got  up  at  3.45  a.m.  By  the  time  he  finished 
writing  something  to  give  to  Panditji,  it  was  prayer 
time.  After  the  daily  routine  of  prayers,  etc.,  Bapuji 


PANDITJl’s  VISIT  53 

revised  the  draft  of  his  prayer-speech  delivered  the 
day  before  yesterday. 

At  7.30  a.m.  he  went  for  his  morning  stroll.  All 
the  guests  joined  him.  Being  Bapuji’s  day  of  silence 
nothing  in  particular  was  talked  of.  But  after  his 
massage  and  bath,  he  spent  2  hours  from  1 1  a.m. 
to  1  p.m.  in  consultations  with  Jawaharlalji.  He 
heard  what  Jawaharlalji  had  to  say  and  put  his 
questions  in  writing  when  he  required  explanations 
since  he  was  still  observing  silence.  Bapuji  relaxed 
from  2  to  2.30  p.m.  As  I  had  to  leave  Bapuji  to 
serve  meals  to  the  guests,  he  asked  me  to  rub  ghee 
while  he  was  having  mud  packs  on  his  head  and 
stomach.  Immediately  after  his  rest  he  sent  for  Pandit 
Jawaharlalji  again  in  order  to  resume  their  talk. 
This  lasted  from  2.30  to  4  p.m.  After  prayers  also 
he  talked  to  Jawaharlalji,  Shankarravji,  Kripalaniji 
and  Mrudulabahen.  Today  too  his  repast  in  the 
evening  was  light.  Bapuji  feels  deeply  grieved  over 
the  riots  in  Bihar. 

Revered  Thakkarbapa  has  no  fever  today.  As 
Bapuji  had  no  time  to  spin,  he  is  doing  so  now  at 
9  p.m.  and  is  listening'  to  newspaper  reports  at  the 
same  time;  sitting  near  them  I  am  writing  up  my 
diary.  After  finishing  spinning  he  did  some  writing  and 
went  to  bed. 

Shrirampur, 

30-12-’46 

Bapuji  has  been  awake  since  2.30  a.m.,  writing 
something  for  Panditji’s  use.  I  am  doing  my  own 
writing  work. 


54 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


As  Bapuji  is  hard-pressed  for  time  since  he  has 
much  work,  he  has  no  time  nowadays  to  look  into 
my  diary. 

Bapuji  is  living  in  the  midst  of  a  stormy  atmo¬ 
sphere.  He  resembles  the  wise  seaman  of  old  who 
kept  his  gaze  fixed  at  the  Pole  Star,  and,  guided  by  it, 
steered  his  boat  along  the  right  course,  though  the  boat 
tended  to  go  off  course  by  the  force  of  the  wind  and 
the  waves.  The  guiding  star  of  Bapuji’s  life-boat  is 
Truth  and  chanting  God’s  name. 

Panditji  and  the  other  guests  left  today  at  7-30 
a.m.  On  our  return  from  the  morning  walk  it  was 
found  that  Kripalaniji  had  forgotten  to  take  his  box 
with  him.  So  it  was  sent  to  Pheni.  Bapuji  now  feels 
the  accumulated  fatigue  of  the  past  3  days.  He  has 
been  getting  up  very  early  in  the  morning  at  2  or 
2.30  a.m.  and  immediately  commencing  his  work. 
This  type  of  schedule  is  too  much  now  for  Bapuji, 
as  he  is  old  and  frail. 

While  spinning  in  the  evening  he  asked  me  to 
read  out  my  diary  for  the  last  3  days,  as  well  as 
some  letters.  “I  am  sorry  that  your  diary  is  not  read 
to  me  daily,”  he  remarked. 

“But  had  you  any  time  for  it?”  I  countered. 

Bapuji  replied,  “I  am  satisfied  that  you  showed 
it  to  Pyarelalji.  He  too  can  guide  you  well.” 

Nothing  else  in  particular  happened  today. 

[Bapu.  Excellently  written.  31-12-’46] 

N.B.  This  one  signature  is  for  the  entries  of  the 
28th,  29th  and  30th;  he  signed  my  diary  early  in  the 
morning  of  31-12-’46. 


VII 

PREPARATIONS  FOR  THE  PILGRIMAGE 

Shrirampur, 
31-12-’46,  Tuesday 

Bapuji  woke  up  today  just  a  little  before  morning 
prayers  were  held.  As  there  were  about  15  minutes  to 
go,  he  looked  into  my  diary  and  signed  it.  He  remarked, 
"‘You  write  at  length,  but  all  the  same  it  is  good.” 

“If  I  write  briefly,”  I  argued,  “how  can  Papa 
to  whom  I  will  send  the  diary  on  completion, 
understand  the  exact  situation  here?” 

Bapuji  laughed  at  my  objection.  “Certainly,  he 
can,”  asserted  Bapu  “if  only  you  know  how  to  sum¬ 
marize.” 

Bapuji  wrote  his  letters  himself  today,  and  then 
attended  prayers,  after  which  he  had  a  glass  of  warm 
water.  At  7  a.  m.  Pyarelalji  came  up  from  his 
village.  Bapuji  talked  to  him  for  a  while  and  then 
went  out  for  his  morning  stroll. 

While  messaging  him  at  9.30  a.m,  I  asked, 
“Bapuji,  how  will  you  do  your  work,  surrounded  as 
you  are  by  liars,  and  with  men  like  Suhrawardy  at 
the  helm  of  affairs?” 

Far  from  getting  an  answer  to  my  question,  I  re¬ 
ceived  a  rebuke  and  a  lesson  I  shall  remember  for  life. 

“What  impudence  to  call  him  ‘Suhrawardy’! 
You  should  address  him  as  ‘Suhrawardy  Saheb’. 
Whatever  he  is,  he  holds  a  high  position  that  commands 
respect.  Besides,  in  age,  he  is  much  older  than  you. 
This  dirty  habit  has  developed  into  a  national  vice. 
We  are  certain  to  remain  backward  as  long  as  we 

55 


56 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


lack  in  courtesy.  In  the  West,  even  a  servant  is  not 
asked  to  bring  anything  without  a  ‘please’  at  the  begin¬ 
ning  of  the  request;  and  there  is  sure  to  be  a  ‘thank 
you’  at  the  end.  This  is  by  way  ofr'an  example.  What 
I  mean  to  say  is  that  a  common  defect  in  our  country¬ 
men  is  bad  manners.  One  should  never  fail  to  be 
courteous  in  talking  to  others.  Many  such  bad  habits 
have  become  so  universal  amongst  us  that  hardly 
anybody  feels  any  concern  over  them.  I  call  discour¬ 
tesy  in  speech  a  subtle  form  of  violence,  hence  I  con¬ 
sider  even  a  trifling  error  as  a  serious  blunder.  But 
this  defect  of  ours  can  on  no  account  be  dismissed  as 
trifling.  We  ought  to  use  nothing  but  respectful 
language  for  our  elders  or  superiors.  Our  country, 
now  considered  backward,  will  rise  in  the  world’s 
esteem  when  courteous  language  becomes  a  national 
habit.  Such  habits  ought  to  be  cultivated  from 
childhood  onwards.” 

I  doubt  if  the  best  of  our  schools  could  ever  have 
taught  me  a  lesson  of  this  type. 

Bapuji  made  some  changes  in  his  diet.  He  gave 
up  taking  khakharas  in  the  morning.  Instead,  5  al¬ 
monds  were  crushed  and  mixed  with  the  vegetable. 
He  also  ate  5  cashewnuts.  In  the  evening  he  had 
some  fruit  and  one  oz.  of  gur. 

Shrirampur, 

2-1 -’47,  Thursday 

I  packed  all  the  things  which  we  would  need 
throughout  the  pilgrimage  and  put  frequently  required 
articles  and  important  papers  in  a  separate  large 
shoulder-bag  which  I  carried  myself. 

At  7.30  a.m.  sharp  Bapuji  left  Rampur.  With 
that  big  shoulder-bag  filled  with  Bapuji’s  necessities, 


PREPARATIONS  FOR  THE  PILGRIMAGE  57 

I  came  here  (Ghandipur)  by  a  shorter  route  and 
arrived  within  30  minutes,  that  is,  at  8  a.m.  Imme¬ 
diately  upon  my  arrival,  I  made  preparations  for 
Bapuji’s  massage,  set  the  cooker  to  boil  and  cleaned 
utensils.  Sushilabahen  accompanied  Bapuji.  All 
along  Bapuji’s  route,  chanting  God’s  name  and  mass¬ 
singing  of  hymns  continued.  He  reached  here  at 
8.50  a.m.  and  was  welcomed  heartily  by  our  hostess- 
sisters  with  the  ceremony  of  garlanding  him  and  put¬ 
ting  the  auspicious  vermilion  mark  on  his  forehead. 

Abdulla  Saheb,  the  D.S.P.,  came  on  a  visit.  Bapuji 
told  him,  “I  don’t  like  the  presence  of  the  military 
here.  It  does  not  become  me.  The  fact  is,  my  pro¬ 
tection  is  looked  after  by  God  himself  or  Khuda — and 
I  have  left  myself  to  His  care.  If  He  so  wishes,  I 
shall  remain  here.  If  not,  He  will  take  me  away.” 

After  massage,  bath,  food  and  rest,  Bapuji  got  up 
at  12.50  rp.m. 

Hecate  ’  fresh  puffed-rice,  boiled  vegetable,  one 
grapefruit  and  milk  for  lunch.  At  1  p.m.  he  drank 
some  cocoanut  water.  Spun  from  2  to  3  p.m.  Then 
he  had  his  mud  pack  and  talked  to  ...  at  the  same 
time.  Evening  prayers  will  begin  at  4.30  p.m.,  so  that 
it  may  not  become  too  late  for  the  women  to  return 
home.  A  large  number  of  women  attended  prayers. 
On  his  return,  he  had  some  vegetable,  barley  and  milk. 
Even  though  the  barley  was  boiled  with  the  vegetable, 
Bapuji  found  it  hard  to  chew. 

He  went  for  a  walk  to  Sushilabahen’s  village. 
It  is  called  Ghangergaon  and  is  very  near  Chandipur. 
Enclosed  by  a  big  gate  is  a  cluster  of  rooms  around  a 
small  compound.  Sushilabahen  stays  in  one  of  these 
rooms,  and  the  rest  are  occupied  by  others.  Bapuji 
talked  to  Sushilabahen  and  the  local  folk.  As  ours 


58 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


was  surprise  visit  Sushilabahen  was  very  pleased 
to  see  Bapuji.  On  our  return,  he  made  us  march 
double  quick- and  we  reached  our  place  in  50  minutes, 
whereas  it  took  us  an  hour  and  a  quarter  to  get  to 
Sushilabahen. 

I  washed  Bapuji’s  feet,  and  then  he  listened  to 
my  diary  while  eating  a  ramafal*.  After  that,  he 
did  his  Bengali  lesson  and  stretched  himself  on  the 
bed  as  he  was  thoroughly  exhausted.  It  was  9  p.m. 
when  Baba  (Satishbabu)  arrived. 


Chandipur, 
3-l-’47,  Friday 

Bapuji  got  up  late  today  at  3.15  a.m.  Ashe 
was  brushing  his  teeth,  Bapuji,  referring  to  some 
incident,  observed,  “This  is  my  psychological  ana¬ 
lysis  of  the  matter.  If  our  action  does  not  achieve 
the  success  we  expected  of  it,  let  us  take  it  as 
due  to  our  own  fault.  We  must  dive  deep  into 
the  recesses  of  our  minds  to  find  out  the  cause 
of  our  failure.  So,  in  a  quiet,  unprejudiced  frame 
of  mind,  ask  yourself  the  reason  for  the  incident, 
and  our  failure.  This  method  will  not  fail  to  give 
you  the  right  answer.  If  you  could  develop  the  power 
•of  deep  reflection  and  self-analysis,  what  a  glorious 
success  my  work  (for  you)  would  be!  All  this  is  cer¬ 
tainly  difficult  to  do,  but  an  honest  effort  on  your  part 
makes  it  easier  to  achieve.  When  we  realize  our  own 
faults,  we  shall  gain  greater  understanding,  and  will 
refuse  to  take  part  in  these  holocausts  of  murder  but 
think  only  of  the  right  action  for  the  betterment  of 
others.  But  our  brains,  having  nothing  constructive 
to  do,  are  idle  and  ready  for  mischief.  Hence  we 


*A  name  of  a  fruit 


PREPARATIONS  FOR  THE  PILGRIMAGE  59 

blame  others  for  the  wrongs  we  commit  ourselves. 
I  don’t  mean  to  say  that  all  this  is  done  consciously 
or  wilfully,  but  blaming  others  has  become  second 
nature  with  us.  Immediately  our  hand  touches  fire 
accidently,  we  pull  it  away.  It  needs  no  conscious 
thinking  but  is  merely  a  reflex  action  of  the  limb. 
Our  plunging  into  these  diabolical  frays  has  become 
almost  an  automatic  habit.  But  what  we  should  think 
about  is  this:  Why  should  a  Hindu  kill  a  Muslim  and 
vice  versa?  The  responsibility  for  lighting  this  raging 
fire  lies  with  all  of  us.  Every  Indian  ought  to  begin  to 
ask  himself,' “What  is  the  trend  of  my  heart’s  feelings? 
Are  they  pure?  Do  I  honestly  feel  that  every  Indian  is 
my  brother?  If  there  is  one  Hindu  or  Muslim  who 
mentally  desires  the  murder  of  his  brother  of  the 
other  faith,  then,  I  say,  such  a  debased  Hindu  or 
Muslim  is  more  anti-social  and  cruel  than  the  one 
who  actually  uses  the  knife  to  stab  his  fellowman. 
His  mind  is  like  a  dustbin  which  spreads  invisible 
particles  of  dirt  and  disease  in  the  air. 

“Suppose,  for  instance,  there  is  foul  air  in  a  house 
due  to  a  man  suffering  from  T.B.  At  first  nobody 
knows — not  even  the  man  himself — of  the  T.B.  case 
in  the  house.  He  spits  here  and  there,  wherever  he 
likes,  and  commits  other  nuisances.  Flies  and  other 
germs  spread  the  disease.  There  may  be  a  paucity  of 
disease-resisting  germs  in  your  body  even  though 
your  general  health  seems  all  right.  Hence,  you  may 
not  know  when  exactly  those  disease-carriers,  flies 
and  other  germs,  sat  on  your  food  and  poisoned  it. 
You  will  nevertheless,  certainly  fall  a  prey  to  the 
fell  disease  when  the  germs  get  into  your  system  when 
you  are  below  par. 


60 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


“Similarly  India  is  weak  today.  There  is  a  great 
dearth  of  disease-fighting  germs,  i.e.  honest  thinkers, 
selfless  men,  those  with  the  true  spirit  of  service  and 
well-wishers  who  are  averse  to  disharmony  among  us. 
The  result  is  that  our  evil  desires  in  thought,  word 
or  deed  show  up. 

“The  science  of  microbiology  deals  with  germs  so 
minute  as  to  be  invisible  to  the  naked  eye.  In  my 
opinion,  the  science  of  the  mind  deals  with  forces 
which  the  untrained  intellect  cannot  comprehend. 
You  know  there  is  a  proverb  among  us:  Tf  the  mind 
is  holy,  there  is  no  need  to  go  to  a  holy  place.’  I 
ask  you  to  think  in  detail  to  find  out  why  I  did  not  use 
what  ...  or  you  had  made.  I  am  not  mentioning 
this  example  to  reproach  you  but  only  to  show  you 
what  concrete  forms  our  thoughts  take.” 

Thus,  as  Bapuji  brushed  his  teeth,  he  enlightened 
me,  on  the  great  power  of  the  mind  in  influencing 
the  thought  and  behaviour  of  a  whole  nation.  By  giv¬ 
ing  the  example  of  the  invisible  infection  of  a 
disease  he  explained,  in  a  convincing  manner,  how 
the  thoughts  of  each  individual  in  our  country  are 
responsible  for  the  present  tension  between  Hindus 
and  Muslims.  Bapuji  purposely  makes  mountains  out 
of  the  molehills  of  one’s  own  small  errors  which  may 
not,  ordinarily,  be  considered  as  errors  at  all.  He  al¬ 
ways  affirms,  Tf  a  man  wants  to  develop,  in  mental 
and  moral  stature,  he  should  be  willing  to  admit 
both  trifling  errors  and  serious  blunders  and  cor¬ 
rect  them,  so  that  they  are  not  repeated.’  And  is  this 
not  a  fact? 

Prayers  were  held  as  usual.  As  Pyarelalji  was 
present,  he  sang  the  hymns  and  recited  the  Gita. 


PREPARATIONS  FOR  THE  PILGRIMAGE  61 

After  drinking  some  warm  water,  Bapuji  talked 
to  him  and  also  to  Nirmalda  (da = brother),  and 
wrote  letters  to  the  Ashram  inmates.  I,  too,  wrote 
some  letters  and  noted  down  Bapuji’s  talks  of  the 
morning. 

At  7.30  a.m.  he  went  to  see  the  area  inhabited 
by  the  Namoshudras,  a  Harijan  community.  Ghastly 
crimes  have  been  perpetrated  there  (in  the  recent 
communal  riots).  Devanathdas  and  Col.  Jivansinhaji 
of  the  I.N.A.  had  accompanied  us.  Returning  home 
I  washed  Bapuji’s  feet.  Bapuji  then  began  to  revise 
his  prayer-speech.  Massage  was  therefore  delayed 
for  a  very  long  time.  He  talked  to  Pyarelalji  during 
the  massage. 

He  took  8  oz.  of  milk,  barley,  sandesh  and  some 
raw  vegetable  for  his  morning  meal.  I  did  not  sit  by 
his  side.  Pyarelalji  being  with  him,  Bapuji  asked  me 
to  finish  my  bath  and  wash  my  clothes.  It  was  al¬ 
ready  past  12  o’clock.  Bapuji  had  finished  his  meal 
by  the  time  I  was  ready  for  mine.  I  ate,  washed  the 
utensils  and  then  rubbed  ghee  on  Bapuji’s  legs.  He 
slept  for  half  an  hour.  On  waking,  he  scanned  the 
local  map.  At  2  p.m.  Amiyababu  (Secretary  to 
Gurudev  Tagore)  came  up.  Bapuji  talked  to  him  for 
about  an  hour,  in  which  time  he  eloquently  expound¬ 
ed  his  views  on  communal  disharmony  in  almost 
the  same  strain  as  he  had  done  to  me  in  the  morning. 

Bapuji  and  I  went  to  a  ladies’  meeting  at  3  p.m. 
Before  a  very  large  audience  Bapuji  delivered  an 
inspiring  speech  on  purity  and  removal  of  un- 
touchability.  “The  country’s  uplift  is  possible  only 
when  ladies  come  forward  and  make  the  cause  of 
removal  of  untouchability  their  own”,  he  empha¬ 
sized.  At  4  p.m.,  when  he  was  having  a  mud  pack 


62 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


on  his  stomach,  Mr.  Walton  and  Shri  Sinha  came 
from  Bihar  on  a  visit  to  elicit  Bapuji’s  views  on  the 
Bihar  riots.  Their  conversation  lasted  till  nearlv 

4 

5  p.m.  Bapuji  insisted  on  the  appointment  of  a  Com¬ 
mission  of  Inquiry.  Bihar,  it  seems,  has  outdone  Noa- 
khali  in  crimes.  Besides  .  .  .  there  seems  to  be  an 
internal  rot  as  well. 

Bapuji  removed  the  mud  pack  at  4.30,  as  he  was 
to  take  his  evening  meal  of  milk,  vegetable  and  fruit 
a  little  earlier  than  usual.  He  had  it  at  4.45  p.m.  An 
ounce  of  barley  was  crushed  and  mixed  with  the 
milk.  He  mixed  everything  else  in  it  as  well  and  drank 
the  mixture!  The  meal  was  over  at  5.12  p.m.  Then  he 
went  off  to  attend  the  prayer-meeting. 

As  it  was  found  that  yesterday’s  prayer-time 
was  a  little  too  early,  prayers  were  held  somewhat 
later  today.  From  there  he  went  straight  to  the 
Ramakrishna  Mission  garden-home.  On  his  return, 
I  washed  his  feet.  While  he  listened  to  the  newspapers, 
I  finished  the  day’s  work,  and  doubled  his  yarn  which 
came  to  100  double  rounds. 

I  was  so  pressed  with  work  all-through  the  day 
that  I  could  not  read  my  mail,  which  had  been  deli¬ 
vered  in  the  morning. 

I  was  able  to  read  it  only  at  10  p.m.  after  I  had 
finished  pressing  his  legs  and  massaging  him  with 
oil,  when  he  lay  down  to  sleep.  And,  now,  as  I 
finish  my  diary  it  is  striking  11  p.m.  I  am  really  very 
happy  here  and  have  much  to  learn  and  know.  If  I 
can  cope  with  all  my  work  as  nicely  as  I  did  today, 
there  will  be  no  hindrance  to  my  continued  stay  with 
Bapuji,  I  am  sure. 

He  wakes  me  up  very  early  in  the  morning.  So, 
before  he  went  to  bed  today,  I  said  to  him  jestingly, 


PREPARATIONS  FOR  THE  PILGRIMAGE 


63 


“I  will  light  a  candle  to  the  Lord  if  you  do  not  get 
up  early  tomorrow.  So,  let  me  see  who  wins,  you  or 

I.” 

Bapuji  laughed.  “Don’t  imagine,”  he  parried 
my  remark,  “that  God  is  so  gullible  as  to  succumb 
to  your  suggestion.” 

[She  has  understood  my  views  quite  well.  But, 

I  think  her  method  of  expression  requires  some 

improvement.  Bapu.  5-1 -’47,  Chandipur.] 

In  his  own  diary  Bapuji  had  merely  noted  down 
the  names  of  his  visitors  and  his  own  programme  of 
the  day. 

In  his  thought-gem  series,  he  has  commented  as 
follows  on  his  visit  to  the  Namoshudras: 

Saw  the  ravages  (of  the  riots)  in  the  garden  colony  of 
Namoshudras.  4 1  wonder  how  man  could  descend  so  low 
as  to  make  such  havoc  in  the  name  of  religion  or  for  self- 
interest  !*  was  my  thought. 

.  Chandipur, 

4-l-’47,  Saturday 

Bapuji  woke  up  at  2  a.m.  Made  me  light  a  lantern 
for  him.  I  said,  “Bapuji!  My  vow  to  the  Lord  (to 
light  a  candle  if  Bapuji  woke  up  late  today)  has  gone 
phut.  But  since  you  go  to  sleep  late  and  rise  as  early 
as  2  a.m.  have  you  any  objection  to  keeping  the 
light  burning  very  low  all  the  night?  My  hands  get 
stiff  with  cold  when  I  light  the  lantern  so  very  early.” 

Bapuji  laughed  away  my  objection.  “Don’t  you 
know  our  proverb,”  he  asked,  “  ‘goats  graze  away  the 
cold  of  children’  ?  (Children  are  so  vivacious  that  they 
do  not  mind  the  cold).  What  you  say  is  all  right,  but 
who  is  going  to  give  us  so  much  kerosene  oil?  Nei¬ 
ther  you  nor  I  earn  a  penny.  You  entertain  such 


64 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


expensive  ideas,  as  your  father  is  an  earning  member 
at  Mahuva.  But  do  you  know  that  in  making  you  get 
up  to  light  the  lantern,  I  have  two  objects  in  view? 
In  the  first  place  the  effort  involved  in  getting  up  and 
lighting  the  lamp  drives  away  your  sleep,  so  that 
you  can  write  down  what  I  dictate  without  dozing; 
and  then  it  saves  that  much  oil! 

“For  me  ‘it’s  going  along  one  path  to  have  two 
objects  served’,  as  the  saying  goes.  And  ‘two’  here 
does  not  mean  literally  ‘two’.  It  means  twenty  or  a 
hundred.  Thousands  of  people  have  been  ruined  here. 
That  fact  goads  us  to  resolve  not  to  waste  a  single 
moment.  We  ought  to  have  just  as  much  sleep  and 
food  as  the  body  requires,  and  no  more.  We  must 
strictly  limit  all  the  other  needs  of  the  body  in  the 
same  way.  As  the  hymn  says: 

Make  the  best  of  today 

Who  has  seen  the  morrow? 

“We  don’t  know  what  is  to  happen  the  very 
next  moment.  I  am  telling  you  all  this  just  now,  but  if 
God  chooses,  He  may  whisk  you  or  me  off  with  the 
talk  unfinished.  That  is  why  this  couplet  must  be 
digested  mentally.  What  then  is  that  single  golden 
path,  by  taking  which  multiple  objects  are  served? 
That  is  nothing  else  than  benevolent  activity.  Call 
it  service  of  the  neighbour  or  devotion  to  God — it’s 
the  same;  for  mere  chanting  God’s  name  or  wearing 
the  cross  on  the  heart  does  not  make  for  true  devo¬ 
tion  to  God.  To  go  out,  with  glaring  religious  marks 
on  the  body,  and  stab  people — as  is  done  nowadays 
— is  sheer  hypocrisy.  Devotion  is  not  easy  to  gain. 
‘‘At  the  sacrifice  of  life  itself  can  devotion  be  attained’ 


PREPARATIONS  FOR  THE  PILGRIMAGE  65 

as  our  Narasinha  Bhagat*  says.  Make  it  a  point,  there¬ 
fore,  to  serve  with  the  mind  if  you  can’t  with  the 
body.  We  should  mentally  desire  the  welfare  of  the 
whole  world  even  as  we  go  on  doing  the  most  ordinary 
things  of  life  such  as  eating,  drinking,  sitting,  stand¬ 
ing,  laughing,  talking,  playing  etc.,  and  also  do 
every  little  service  to  others  that  comes  our  way, 
leaving  the  rest  to  God.  If  you  assimilate  so  much 
mental  food  you  will  have  learnt  a  lot.  What  I  dilated 
upon  just  now  from  an  ordinary  chat  is  more  than 
enough  for  you.” 

Then  asking  me  to  place  the  light  near  him,  he 
began  to  write  letters  in  his  own  hand.  As  I  had  a 
severe  cold,  I  was  asked  to  go  to  bed,  which  I  did, 
and  was  awakened  at  prayer  time.  Then  followed 
the  daily  routine  of  brushing  the  teeth,  prayers  etc. 
As  I  had  lost  my  voice,  Pyarelalji  sang  the  hymns 
today  too.  He  had  walked  from  his  village  in  the 
dark,  early  enough  to  come  up  here  in  time  for  pra¬ 
yers.  Amiyababu  and  his  friends,  too,  attended.  In 
order  to  keep  in  touch  with  the  serious  problems  that 
have  arisen  from  the  Bihar  riots,  Pyarelalji  arrives 
here  before  it  is  dawn  and  returns  to  his  village  as 
soon  as  his  talks  with  Bapuji  end. 

We  began  our  morning  walk  at  7.30  a.m.  as 
usual.  As  Bapuji  had  been  requested  to  perform  the 
opening  ceremony  of  a  school  at  North  Changergaon, 
we  took  that  route  for  our  walk.  Throughout  the 
walk,  Bapuji  talked  to  Amiyababu,  giving  him  details 
of  the  present  communal  situation. 

It  took  us  one  hour  to  return.  I  washed  Bapuji’s 
feet  and  made  preparations  for  his  massage  and  bath, 

*A  well-known  mediaeval  saint  of  Gujarat 

L-5 


66 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


and  then  after  paring  a  vegetable,  set  the  cooker  to 
boil.  Though  I  finished  making  all  the  khakharas ,  there 
seemed  to  be  no  end  to  Bapuji’s  talks  with  Col.  Jivan- 
sinhaji  and  Devanath  Das.  I  got  tired  at  last  and  but¬ 
ting  in  I  burst  out,  “Now,  please!  Leave  Bapuji 
alone.  Since  2  a.m.  he  has  been  in  harness  and  it’s 
now  late  enough.  Do  you  know  what  he  will  do?  He 
will  make  me  rush  through  the  massage.” 

The  gravity  of  the  atmosphere  was  dissolved. 
Bapuji  laughed  and  said,  “If  we  don’t  submit  quietly 
to  this  girl’s  demand,  we  are  finished.  There’s  a 
proverb  in  Gujarati  which  says,  ‘Don’t  cut  off  the 
root  of  a  tree  bearing  sweet  fruit’.  Excess  is  dangerous. 
You  may  go  now.  Who  will  attend  to  my  needs  if 
she  gets  cross  ?  So  at  least,  for  her  sake  we  must  stop 
our  talk  now.”  In  this  way  Bapuji,  speaking  in  a 
very  agreeable  manner  and  with  a  genial  smile, 
tactfully  bid  them  go.  I,  too,  was  charmed  with  these 
remarks  of  Bapuji’s.  While  he  was  talking  to  them 
thus,  I  was  laughing  in  my  sleeve. 

With  a  15  minutes’  nap  during  the  massage 
Bapuji  seemed  a  little  refreshed.  He  said  so  on  waking 
up.  Right  from  2  a.m.  to  9  a.m.  his  work  had  continued 
non-stop.  During  this  time,  he  had  to  talk  conti¬ 
nuously.  This  sort  of  thing  is  really  too  much  for 
Bapuji  s  health  and  age.  He  ate  2  khakharas ,  a  vege¬ 
table,  a  slice  of  papaiya ,  a  little  sandesh  and  drank  some 
milk.  He  asked  me  to  learn  the  methods  of  making 
puffed  rice,  flattened  rice,  cocoanut  oil  etc.  “And 
then,  he  added,  “we  shall  always  have  rice  with  us 
and  you  will  be  spared  the  trouble  of  making  khakharas 
daily.  The  amount  of  puffed  rice  you  make  should 
last  us  for  10  to  15  days.  For  aged  people  like  myself, 


PREPARATIONS  FOR  THE  PILGRIMAGE  67 

puffed  rice  grains  are  quite  a  good  substitute  for  wheat 
bread.” 

Bapuji  slept  for  3  quarters  of  an  hour  after  his 
meal.  Then  as  he  spun  yarn,  he  listened  to  my  diary 
of  the  last  2  or  3  days.  He  asked  me  to  leave  it  by 
his  side  on  the  bed  to  enable  him  to  sign  it  once  for 
all  the  past  few  days. 

Shorenda  has  made  an  excellent  dhanush  takli.* 
Bapuji  used  it  today.  Then  he  went  to  a  village 
meeting.  I  gave  him  a  mud-pack  at  4.  p.m.  and 
left  him  in  order  to  prepare  the  evening  meal.  He 
had  over-strained  himself,  and  said  that  even  his 
eyes  were  burning.  To  soothe  them,  he  applied  the 
packs  to  his  eyelids  as  well.  He  is  constantly  absorbed 
in  a  reverie,  and  feels  very  tired  these  days.  He  took 
only  6  oz.  of  milk  and  just  a  little  vegetable  for 
his  evening  meal. 

The  evening  prayer-meeting  was  well  attended. 
Bapuji  fell  asleep  at  10  p.m.  though  he  went  to  bed 
at  9.30.  I,  too,  went  to  bed  early,  at  10.30  p.m.,  as 
I  have  now  developed  fever  in  addition  to  my  cold. 
Bapuji  feels  upset  when  I  get  sick.  “Til  appreciate  it 
very  much  if  you  go  to  bed  early  tonight,”  he  had  said 
plaintively.  From  that  I  realized  how  anxious 
Bapuji  is  about  my  health.  Without  a  word  in  reply 
I  did  as  he  suggested  and  went  to  bed.  I  have  still 
to  double  Bapuji’s  yarn,  copy  some  of  his  letters  and 
file  some  news-cuttings.  These,  I  shall  attend  to 
tomorrow. 

[Bapu,  5-1 -’47,  Sunday,  Chandipur] 


*  Bow-shaped  spinning  tool 


68  THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 

Chandipur, 
5-l-’47,  Sunday 

Bapuji  got  up  at  2.30  a.m.  and  woke  me  up.  I 
lighted  the  lamp  for  him.  The  first  thing  he  did 
with  the  aid  of  the  light  was  to  sign  my  diary,  after  a 
hurried  glance  through  it,  for  the  last  4  or  5  days. 
Showed  me  what  improvements  could  be  made  in  my 
diary  of  3-1 -’47  by  pointing  out  some  grammatical 
mistakes.  Signed  some  cheques  and  explained  to  me 
how  to  keep  various  accounts.  Then  he  himself 
wrote  some  letters  to  the  Ashram-inmates.  At  7.30 
a.m.  he  went  out  as  usual  for  his  morning  stroll  and 
talked  to  Sudhirda  (Sudhirchandra  Bose)  all  the  way. 
Gave  him  some  valuable  tips  and  other  guidance 
which  may  be  of  use  to  him  as  a  member  of  the 
Cabinet  or  as  an  ambassador  in  some  foreign  land. 
Sudhirda  is  a  very  amiable,  open-hearted  man  of 
simple  habits  in  dress,  etc. 

We  visited  the  scene  of  murders  and  rapine.  It 
was  a  ghastly  sight,  desolate  and  barren,  with  bones 
of  the  murdered  scattered  here  and  there. 

Returning  home,  I  washed  Bapuji’s  feet.  His 
talks  with  Sudhirda  continued  so  long,  that  massage 
had  to  be  much  delayed.  So  he  made  me  hurry 
through  it.  Bapuji  had  asked  ...  to  come  and 
talk  to  him  at  the  time  he  was  having  his  meal.  As 
the  talks  were  likely  to  be  edifying  to  me  also,  Bapuji 
said  to  me,  “There’s  nothing  private  in  the  talk.  As 
I  want  you  to  understand  the  significance  of  this  in¬ 
cident,  you  may  sit  here  and  listen.” 

Bapuji  told  him  (the  visitor),  “I  shall  take  it  that 
you  have  gone  on  leave;  .  .  .  has  showered  all  his 
love  on  you.  You  have  sacrificed  your  all  and 


PREPARATIONS  FOR  THE  PILGRIMAGE  69 

become  a  fakir  to  follow  me.  It  is  for  your  devotion 
to  me  that  I  relieved  you  from  that  post.  For  myself 
I  can  say  I  have  always  looked  upon  you  as  my  son 
and  will  ever  continue  to  do  so.  As  you  are  very 
excited  just  now  it  is  useless  to  attempt  explanations 
to  clear  misunderstandings.  It  is  also  possible  that 
I  may  not  be  able  to  see  that  I  am  wrong.” 

Bapuji  then  ate  2  khakharas ,  a  lump  of  condensed 
cocoanut  oil,  a  little  raw  vegetable  and  two  oranges, 
and  drank  8  oz.  of  milk.  When  he  relaxed  for  rest 
and  I  was  rubbing  oil  on  his  legs,  he  said,  “Give  two 
and  a  half  minutes  to  each  leg  and  finish  the  whole 
job  in  five  minutes.  You  haven’t  bathed  still  ?  When 
will  you  bathe  and  wash  the  clothes?  And  today  of 
all  days,  you  have  taken  out  quite  a  heap  of  clothes 
to  wash!  And  there  must  be  many  utensils  too  to 
cleanse!  It  was,  however,  necessary  that  you  should 
listen  to  my  talk  with  ...  so  that  you  may  write  it 
down  faithfully.  And  if  you  report  the  matter  to 
.  .  .  (some  names)  my  time  will-  be  saved  to  that 
extent.” 

After  massaging  Bapuji’s  legs  with  ghee,  setting 
up  his  spinning  wheel  and  telling  Shorenda  to  give 
Bapuji  cocoanut-water  when  he  awakes,  I  went  to 
have  my  bath  and  wash  the  clothes.  The  usual  time 
for  lunch  here  is  between  2.30  and  3  p.m.  and  I  was 
free  from  my  work  exactly  at  2.30  p.m.  Usually  I  take 
my  meal  with  Bapuji  as  he  does  not  approve  of  my 
taking  it  so  late,  but  today’s  case  was  different  and  I 
had  my  meal  with  the  host  family.  Didi,*  Shorenda 
and  others  were  very  glad  to  have  my  company 
when  they  ate;  but  when  Bapuji  came  to  know 
of  it,  he  was  highly  critical.  He  castigated  me 


*  Elder  sister 


70 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


saying,  “It’s  much  better  not  to  eat  anything 
at  all  than  to  have  it  at  late  hours,  or  if  you  had 
to  eat,  why  not  something  light,  say,  milk  or  a 
fruit  or  even  cocoanut-water  ?  This  i3  the  royal  way 
of  becoming  worse  than  you  are  already.  And  if 
you  get  ill  here  all  my  work  will  go  to  dogs.  You 
should  at  least  have  asked  me  if  it  was  wise  to  take 
your  meal  so  late.  I  must  say  I  entirely  disapprove 
of  this  habit  of  late  eating.  You  continue  to  suffer 
from  a  bad  cold  and  you  have  washed  so  many 
clothes!  .  .  .  But  now  if  you  give  up  everything  else 
and  snatch  half  an  hour’s  rest,  I  shall  be  very  glad, 
since  it  is  I  who  was  responsible  for  wasting  your  time 
today.  I  detained  you  to  listen  to  our  talk,  but  why 
should  I  have  done  so?  My  mind  swept  me  off  my 
balance.  However,  done  is  done.  I  had  to  say  all 
this  for  your  future  guidance  and  well-being. 

Spinning  over,  Bapuji  attended  a  meeting  of  the 
local  craftsmen.  He  refused  to  take  me  with  him  but 
asked  me  to  go  to  sleep  instead.  *1  did  so.  Bapuji 
woke  me  up  at  4  p.m.  and  said,  “I  realized  how  tired 
you  were  only  when  I  saw  you  slumbering  soundly. 
Yet,  you  told  me  you  wouldn’t  be  able  to  get  to  sleep! 
It’s  no  wonder  you  get  so  tired  since  I  woke  you  up 
at  2.30  a.m.  But  let  me  warn  you  that  if  in  a  frenzy 
of  enthusiasm  you  strain  yourself  too  much  with  over¬ 
work,  you  are  sure  to  collapse  and  I,  too,  with  you.” 

His  evening  meal  comprised  of  pineapple  juice, 
milk  8  oz.,  and  one  ounce  of  gur.  Prayers  were  held 
in  Ghangergaon.  From  there  he  proceeded  to  a 
Muslim  friend  in  Harishchara. 

Gharuda,  Baba  and  Ma  came  on  a  visit.  As  we 
were  to  leave  for  our  next  camp,  Bapuji  referring  to  it 
said,  “I  don’t  want  a  single  person  to  come  down  from 


PREPARATIONS  FOR  THE  PILGRIMAGE  71 

Kazirkhil  to  attend  on  me.  And  these  Press  reporters 
who  come  with  me  must  be  made  to  understand  quite 
clearly  that  they  may  do  so  if  they  like,  but  entirely 
at  their  own  cost  and  risk.  It  often  happens  that 
Press  reporters  are  mistaken  for  members  of  my  own 
party.  So  they  must  be  distinctly  told  so.  .  .  .  has 
decided  to  accompany  me.  I  don’t  think  he  will  be 
able  to  stand  the  strain.  We  shall  see.  My  party  thus 
consists  of  only  two — Manu  and  Nirmalbabu.” 

All  the  extra  things  (i.e.  those  not  to  be  carried 
with  us)  were  entrusted  to  Baba  (Satishbabu)  and  Ma 
(his  wife — Hemaprabhadevi). 

When  he  returned  from  prayers,  Bapuji  felt  very 
tired.  He  took  only  about  half  an  ounce  of  gur  and 
one  grapefruit.  Then  he  observed  silence  and  revised 
many  letters.  Went  to  bed  at  10  p.m. 

I  had  practically  no  work  since  Bapuji  was  obser¬ 
ving  silence.  As  we  shall  halt  just  for  a  day  in  each 
of  our  camps,  I  tried  my  best  to  have  the  least  possible 
luggage  with  us. 

Chandipur, 
6-l-’47,  Monday 

Bapuji  woke  today  just  before  prayer-time  and  no 
earlier.  Being  his  day  of  silence,  he  wrote  all  his 
letters  himself.  He  had  a  glass  of  fruit  juice  after 
finishing  his  daily  routine  including  prayers.  Then, 
as  he  was  revising  his  letters,  he  dozed  off.  It  is  quite 
possible  that  he  had  over-exerted  himself  by  an  ex¬ 
cessively  long  walk  yesterday.  So  he  asked  me,  by 
gestures  only,  to  press  his  legs.  Hardly  had  I  done  so 
for  five  minutes,  then  he  fell  into  a  deep  slumber  to 
wake  up  again  at  6.30  a.m.  At  7.30  a.m.  Bapuji 


72 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


and  I  went  to  visit  an  ailing  public  worker.  Bapuji 
gave  him  some  instructions  in  writing.  No  food, 
only  warm  water,  with  honey  and  a  little  soda-bi-carb, 
to  be  taken  now  and  again,  as  required.  He  was  also 
advised  to  have  mud-pack  on  his  stomach.  It  took 
us  a  solid  hour  to  return  home.  Immediately  upon 
arrival,  I  washed  his  feet,  and  then  began  massaging 
his  legs.  He  had  a  nap  of  about  25  minutes  during 
this  ritual. 

Bapuji  walked  bare-foot  to  the  prayer  ground 
in  the  evening.  I  asked  him  the  reason.  He  replied  by 
gestures  that  he  would  give  it  after  the  silence  period 
was  over.  He  finished  his  work  early  tonight  and 
talked  to  Baba,  Ma  and  Arunbhai  (their  son)  at 
8  p.m. 

As  there  is  a  scratch  on  one  of  his  feet,  I  applied 
hazeline  to  it.  Then  Pyarelalji  came  up;  Bapuji’s  talk 
with  him  lasted  to  almost  10  p.m. 

Bapuji  gave  me  the  reason  for  discarding  his 
chapals* ,  when  he  lay  stretched  out  at  night  and  I  was 
massaging  his  legs  with  oil.  He  said,  “We  don’t  go  to 
our  temples,  mosques  or  churches  with  shoes  on.  If 
that  be  so  it  is  much  more  important  that  I  go  to  God 
Daridranarayana  (God  in  the  form  of  the  poor  and 
helpless).  We  are  now  to  visit  such  people  and  tread 
on  that  holy  ground  where  people  have  lost  their  dear 
ones,  where  innocent  women  and  children  have  been 
massacred,  where  women  have  not  even  a  piece  of 
cloth  to  cover  their  nakedness  and  where  the  sacred 
bones  of  innocent  victims  are  scattered.  Going  to 
a  sacred  place  like  this  is  for  me  a  pilgrimage.  (Our 
journey  is  to  begin  from  tomorrow).  How  can  I  wear 
chapah  then?” 


*  Sandals 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


73 


As  he  was  saying  this,  Bapuji  was  deeply  moved. 
His  heart,  to  use  a  Gujarati  simile,  was  stirred  as  much 
as  curds-and-whey  when  it  is  churned  to  extract  butter 
from  it.  That  showed  me  how  intensely  sincere  Bapuji 
is  in  considering  this  journey  as  nothing  but  a  holy 
pilgrimage. 

[Bapu,  Masimpur,  8-1 -’47] 


VIII 

THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 

Chandipur, 
7-l-’47,  Tuesday 

Since  today  we  set  out  on  our  pilgrimage,  Bapuji 
asked  me  to  sing  his  favourite  hymn  Vaishnavajana* 
and  to  vary  the  refrain  of  the  hymn  by  substituting 
‘Christianjana,  Parsijana,  Sikhijana,  Muslimjana,  and 
Harinajana’  for  Vaishnavajana  respectively  at  the  end 
of  each  stanza. 

Talks  between  Bapuji  and  Pyarelalji  continued 
for  about  an  hour  after  prayers  were  over.  I  was  not 
present  during  their  conversation  as  I  had  to  pack 
our  luggage. 

Today  Bapu  wrote  a  very  touching  letter  to  .  .  . 
giving  a  clear  picture  of  the  situation  here.  I  copied 
it.  Here  are  some  extracts: 

.  .  .  Don’t  be  anxious  about  my  health.  For  the  time 
being,  I  am  able  to  carry  on  with  my  work,  which  is  very 

*A  hymn  describing  the  qualifications  of  a  true  devotee  of 
Vishnu 


74 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


heavy.  God  knows  how  long  I  can  continue  to  do  so.  No¬ 
thing  but  my  own  folly  was  the  cause  of  my  illness  in  Kheda* 
— lack  of  knowledge  about  dietetics  and  senseless  pandering 
to  the  palate.  If  you  submit  to  its  cravings,  you  are  sure 
to  fall  ill,  no  matter  whether  you  eat  five  items  of  food  or 
only  one.  So  every  moment  I  realize,  by  experience,  that 
work  done  methodically  and  within  the  limits  of  my  endur¬ 
ance  will  not  harm  me.  Besides,  I  tell  .  .  .  and  .  .  .  not  to 
worry  about  my  health.  There  is  the  One  Almighty  Phy¬ 
sician  above  all  of  us  who  will  look  after  me,  and  He  is 
able  enough.  I  had  your  letter  of.  .  .  .  Don’t  expect  a  reply. 
I  do  write  some  letters,  but  that  is  because  I  get  up  very 
early.  It  is  impossible  for  me  to  cope  with  the  work  here. 
But  I  don’t  worry  about  it.  I  am  ashamed  to  admit  that 
though  I  do  get  the  Harijan,  I  can’t  read  it.  .  .  .  are  in 
their  respective  villages.  I  will  certainly  speak  out  frankly 
if  I  find  things  going  wrong.  The  work  here  is  very  difficult. 
I  have,  so  to  speak,  to  make  my  way  through  total  dark¬ 
ness.  So  ‘One  step  at  a  time  is  enough  for  me’.  All  this 
is  a  mere  hint  and  not  the  whole  picture. 

At  7-15  a.m.  Bapuji  got  up  to  go  to  the  bath¬ 
room.  So  I  packed  up  the  last  bundle,  i.e.  the  bed 
linen  and  other  articles  which  Bapu  uses.  Within 
5  minutes,  he  came  out  of  his  bath.  The  ladies  of  the 
home  in  which  we  stayed  put  the  auspicious  vermilion 
mark  on  his  forehead  and  waved  lights  in  front  of 
him  (as  they  do  in  temples)  and  then  we  set  off  at 
7-30  a.m.  sharp.  Bapuji  used  his  wooden  stick  and 
me  to  support  him  while  walking.  He  did  not  wear 
chapals. 

Today  was  a  memorable  day  in  my  life.  The  thrill 
of  joy  I  felt  cannot  be  described.  That  I  would  be 

*A  district  in  Gujarat 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


75 


made  his  walking  stick  on  this  great  occasion  of  self- 
sacrifice  was  something  of  which  I  had  not  even 
dreamt  of. 

Bapuji  had  stepped  out  of  the  house,  barefoot, 
singing  that  famous  song  of  the  Poet  Rabindranth 
Tagore  entitled  4  The  Lonely  Pilgrim5  (Ekalo  Jane  Re) 
which  begins  thus : 

If  no  one  joins  the  Holy  March 
Heeding  thy  hearty  call, 

Be  bold,  O  pilgrim,  start  alone 
Mind  not  the  rebuff  at  all. 

The  scene  that  presented  itself  before  my  eyes 
was  that  of  the  practice  of  the  precept  mentioned  by 
a  Gujarati  devotee  who  says: 

First  give  thy  head; 

Then  chant  His  name. 

When  Ekalo  Jane  Re  ended,  we  began  singing 
Ramadhuna  as  we  walked.  This,  too,  was  quite  as 
dense  a  jungle  as  the  Dandaka  forest  which  Tulsidasji* 
refers  to,  on  Rama’s  entry  into  it,  in  these  glowing 
terms : 

As  he  trod  the  ground, 

He  sanctified 

The  Dandak  forest  deep; 

Saved  Rishisf  around; 

The  foes  who  defied 
He  killed  them  all  at  a  sweep. 

And  was  it  not  true  that  Bapuji,  too,  was  entering 
this  forest  to  end  the  sorrows  of  the  horror-stricken,  and 

*The  ipediaeval  saint  of  U.P.  whose  story  of  Rama  in  poetry 
still  sways  millions  in  India. 
fSages 


76 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


often  innocent,  victims?  A  military  force  led;  then 
followed  the  press  reporters  and,  last  of  all,  were 
Bapuji  and  myself  plodding  along  the  foot-track  which 
was  too  narrow  for  2  persons  to  walk  abreast  com¬ 
fortably.  It  was  enchanting  scenery  that  we  passed 
through.  The  green  fronds  of  the  cocoanut  and 
supari  trees  seemed  to  bend  down  to  welcome  Bapuji 
coming  along  the  avenue.  All  round  us  nothing 
but  luxuriant  cool  greenery  met  our  eyes.  And  added 
to  the  refreshing  green  of  the  foliage  was  the  crimson 
of  the  dawn.  The  sun  had  just  begun  to  rise,  as  if 
to  be  a  silent  witness  to  the  commencement  of  the 
glorious  march  undertaken  by  one  of  the  greatest  men 
in  history.  The  beautiful  wayside  ponds  reflected  the 
splendour  of  the  scene. 

Rills  of  water,  small  but  delightful  were  a  frequent 
sight  to  feast  our  eyes  upon.  I  wondered  what  good 
I  had  done  in  the  past  to  deserve  this  unique  oppor¬ 
tunity  of  accompanying  Bapu  on  his  noble  mission ! 
It  could  be  due  to  the  blessings  of  my  grandma  and 
the  devotion  my  parents  had  for  her.  My  heart  was 
overflowing  with  joy.  My  one  prayer  to  God  now  is, 
‘Oh!  Lord!  Please  see  me  safe  through  this  journey 
and  let  me  emerge  from  the  test  with  credit.5 

We  halted  at  two  places  on  the  way.  Sushilbahen 
was  to  meet  us  but  she  took  another  route;  however, 
Satishbabu  and  Gharuda  joined  us  midway.  We 
reached  here  (Masimpur)  exactly  at  9  a.m. 

Masimpur, 
7-l-547,  2  p.m. 

Bapuji  is  spinning  while  I  write  up  my  diary. 
There  is  not  a  dwelling  left  intact.  As  far  as  the 
eye  could  see,  only  charred  remains  of  what  were  once 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


77 


human  habitations  remained.  Nirmalda  had  arrived 
earlier  than  we.  He  himself  had  carried  his  own 
luggage  all  the  way,  for  he  is  a  man  of  strict  princi¬ 
ples. 

A  ‘folding  hut’  has  been  set  up  for  us,  which  Baba 
and  his  band  have  ingeniously  designed.  Mats  have 
been  spread  on  grass  to  cover  it  and  provide  a  floor. 
There  are  two  bed-steads,  Bapuji’s  and  mine.  Several 
-little  windows  ventilate  our  hut;  some  quite  open  and 
others  with  bamboo  slivers  interlaced.  Behind  our 
dwelling  is  a  small  shed  for  Bapuji’s  massage  and  a 
still  smaller  one  for  his  commode.  This  is  similar  to  a 
small  but  pretty  cottage,  furnished  with  every  comfort, 
big  and  small. 

Immediately  upon  our  arrival,  Bapuji  inspected 
our  folding  hut.  After  this,  I  washed  his  feet.  I 
noted  that  there  were  scratches  on  both  the  soles,  as  he 
had  walked  barefoot.  Usually  he  keeps  them  so 
clean  that  not  a  speck  of  dirt  can  be  seen,  and  they 
are  so  soft  too!  Bapuji  said,  “You,  too,  saw  what  great 
trouble  Satishbabu  has  taken  to  set  up  this,  my 
palace?  Didn’t  you?  Besides,  it  is  made  up  of  so 
many  parts  that  the  whole  is  easily  portable.  Even 
a  child  can  lift  and  carry  anyone  of  the  parts  —  so  light 
are  they.  That  is  how  he  has  expressed  in  action  his 
intense  devotion  to  me.  But  how  can  I  accept  such  an 
offering  and  use  it  selfishly,  for  my  own  comfort?  I 
cannot.  So,  I  am  resolved  to  see  that  the  hut  is  not 
carried  to  our  next  halt;  instead,  it  can  be  used  for  a 
small  mobile  hospital  or  for  some  other  good  cause. 
As  for  me,  I  shall  camp  with  perfect  ease  and  comfort 
in  any  kind  of  shelter  given  by  the  villagers,  and,  if 
none  is  available,  under  the  shade  of  any  of  the  numer¬ 
ous  trees  as  a  last  resort.  Do  they,  the  trees,  ever 


78 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


refuse  shelter  to  us,  or  to  any  creature  for  that  matter  ? 
God  will  look  after  me  as  He  thinks  best.  Why  should 
we  worry  about  such  details?  Even  to  those  who 
have  gone  to  other  villages  I  have  said  in  the  plainest 
language,  “You  should  be  content  with  the  food 
given  you  by  the  villagefolk,  and  insist  that  it  is  of  the 
same  kind  as  they  normally  eat.  You  should  mingle 
with  them  freely  and  become  a  member  of  the  family 
with  whom  you  stay.  You  are  not  to  be  haughty, 
thinking  yourselves  important  persons,  who  have  con¬ 
descended  to  come  down  from  the  heights  of  civiliza¬ 
tion  to  enlighten  benighted,  ignorant  boors  and  there¬ 
by  to  confer  a  favour  on  them.  Be  sure  that  your  work 
will  collapse  if  you  betray  a  trace  of  such  egotism. 
In  case  you  get  ill,  you  are  to  be  content  with  what¬ 
ever  medicine  is  available  from  the  local  hakim*  or 
vaidya  *  or  resort  to  mother  nature’s  own  remedies. 
This  same  rule  holds  good  for  both  you  and  me.  And 
you  will  see  what  wonderful  results  emerge  from  this 
resolution  of  self-denial.  There  is  not  a  shred  of 
doubt  in  my  mind  on  that  score.” 

After  washing  his  feet  I  massaged  him;  he  fell 
asleep  for  20Jminutes  while  I  did  so,  as  he  had  arisen 
at  2  am.  and  worked  steadily  till  9.45  a.m.  Therefore, 
he  must  have  been  tired.  When  he  finished  his  bath 
it  was  11-30  a.m.  This  being  the  first  day  of  our  march, 
every  bit  of  his  daily  routine  was  delayed.  He  took 
8  oz.  of  milk,  some  boiled  vegetable,  2  khakhras  and 
1  grapefruit  for  his  midday  meal.  As  Sushilabahen 
and  Pyarelalji  were  in  attendance  on  him  I  went 
for  my  bath,  to  wash  clothes  and  to  attend  to  other 

Muslim  or  Hindu  physician  following  the.Unani  or  Ayur¬ 
vedic  system 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


79 


sundry  work.  As  he  was  doing  his  Bengali  lesson, 
Bapuji  dozed  of  again.  He  had  told  me  also  to  rest 
after  rubbing  him  with  ghee,  but  I  had  so  much 
work  to  do  that  I  didn’t. 

At  3.30  p.m.  Bapuji  woke  up  and  after  drinking 
some  cocoanut  water,  he  glanced  at  the  post,  then 
read  it  carefully  and  noted  down  something  in  his 
diary.  At  3.45  he  had  his  mud-pack.  In  that  posi¬ 
tion  of  repose  he  talked  about  the  problem  of  displaced 
persons  with  Abdualla  Saheb  and  Zaman  Saheb,  and 
also  attended  the  meeting  of  the  Relief  Committee. 
Very  reluctantly  I  had  to  forego  attending  that  meeting, 
as  otherwise  some  other  important  work  would  have 
been  left  undone.  Then  for  nearly  2  hours  he  dis¬ 
cussed  with  Annadababu  the  same  problem  of  relief 
to  the  victims  of  riots.  Bapuji  holds,  “The  displaced 
persons  should  be  trained  to  be  self-reliant  in  order  to 
maintain  themselves,  and  not  depend  upon  charities. 
Some  amount  in  charity  will,  of  course,  have  to  be  dis¬ 
tributed.  But  total  dependence  on  it  will  bring  about 
inertia  and  indifference  and  aversion  to  earning  a 
living. 

At  5  p.m.  he  went  to  prayers.  When  Ramadhuna 
began,  Muslim  brothers  began  to  leave  the  prayer¬ 
meeting  in  a  huff;  the  prayers,  however,  were  conti¬ 
nued  as  usual.  He  had  eaten  one  mashed  banana, 
and  had  drunk  8  oz.  of  milk  before  he  went  to  the 
prayer-meeting,  and  at  7.30  p.m.  in  the  evening 
he  took  an  oz.  of  gur. 

There  was  an  incessant  stream  of  those  desiring  an 
interview  and  also  of  casual  visitors  who  merely  wanted 
to  have  a  glimpse  of  Bapuji  till  at  last  at  9.30  p.m. 
Nirmalda  peremptorily  stopped  all  visitors.  He 


so 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


himself  sees  most  of  those  desiring  an  interview  and 
thus  saves  Bapuji  from  much  trouble. 

After  pacing  up  and  down  for  a  short  while,  I 
washed  Bapuji’s  feet.  Then,  he  did  his  Bengali  lesson 
and  I  finished  my  work  for  the  night  such  as  making 
his  bed  etc.  At  9.30  p.m.  Bapuji  lay  down  and  I 
•rubbed  oil  on  his  head,  pressed  his  legs  and  then  asked 
his  permission  to  keep  awake  for  half  an  hour  in  order 
to  bring  my  diary  up-to-date.  Bapuji  told  me  to  finish 
my  work  by  10  p.m.  at  the  latest  and  go  to  sleep. 
Today’s  diary  has  been  written  spasmodically.  I 
was  afraid  that  I  would  not  be  able  to  cope  with  all 
the  work  that  I  had  to  get  through  but  I  was  able  to  do 
so  without  any  serious  difficulty.  As  the  time  for  cook¬ 
ing  in  the  morning  clashes  with  that  allocated  for 
massage,  Bapuji  had  to  wait  for  me  till  I  finished  the 
preliminaries  and  set  the  cooker  to  boil.  As  for  the 
khakharas ,  Bapuji  suggested  that  I  should  make  them 
whenever  I  found  the  time,  and  even  proposed  that  the 
khakharas  be  omitted  altogether  and  that  puffed-rice 
would  do  just  as  well.  I,  however,  immediately  re¬ 
jected  the  idea.  By  accepting  his  suggestion  to  make 
the  khakharas  at  my  convenience,  the  pressure  of  work 
in  the  morning  was  relieved  to  some  extent. 

Thus,  by  God’s  grace,  the  first  day  of  our  pilgri¬ 
mage  ended  without  any  mishap. 

Have  copied  Bapuji’s  diary.  It  is  exactly  10  p.m. 
now  and  I,  too,  shall  retire  as  I  had  promised  Bapuji. 

Fatehpur, 

8-l-’47,  Wednesday 

Bapuji  awakened  me  at  2  a.m.,  dictated  a  letter  to 
Jajuji  in  which  he  referred  to  ...  ’s  letter,  and 
another  to  Rajendrababu  regarding  Bihar.  Then  he 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


81 


listened  while  I  read  out  the  entries  in  my  diary,  and 
said  that  from  henceforth  he  would  check  my  diary 
daily  but  would  sign  it  when  convenient.  “I  intend 
to  teach  you,”  he  observed,  “the  work  that  Mahadev 
and  Prabha  used  to  do.  You  have  already  picked 
up  some  of  it,  but  much  still  remains  to  be  learnt.” 
Bapuji  then  dictated  some  letters  which  in  turn  I 
read  back  to  him  for  approval.  By  the  time  we  got 
through  it  was  time  for  prayers. 

After  prayers  he  signed  my  diary  ( with  entries 
for  the  last  3  or  4  days)  and  then  busied  himself  in  a 
conversation  with  Nirmalda. 

At  exactly  7  a.m.  we  had  left  Masimpur  for  this 
place.  Accompanying  us  were  some  volunteers  who 
shared  the  burden  of  carrying  the  luggage  with  me. 
We  arrived  here  at  8.30  a.m.  Bapuji  saluted  all  the 
Muslim  brothers  that  he  came  across  but  they  did  not 
respond  to  his  greeting  and  went  their  way  as  if  they 
had  never  heard  of  him.  That  prompted  me  to  ask 
Bapuji,  “Why  do  you  go  on  saluting  these  people  when 
they  are  so  indifferent,  if  not  hostile?”  “What  do  we 
lose  thereby?”  Bapuji  retorted.  “A  day  will  come 
when  they  will  understand  me.  We,  on  our  part, 
should  never  give  up  sincere  humility.  At  present 
the  one  thought  that  occurs  to  them  when  they  see 
me  is,  ‘Here  comes  our  enemy’,  whereas  I  want  to  prove 
that  I  am  no  enemy,  but  a  friend,  come  here  to  serve 
them.  I  can  legitimately  claim  to  be  so  only  when 
there  is  absolute  humility  not  only  in  me  but  also  in 
the  members  of  my  party.” 

Like  yesterday,  we  sang  hymns  and  chanted 
dhuna*  throughout  our  march. 

*A  couplet  repeated  again  and  again 

L-6 


82 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


Here,  we  have  been  housed  in  a  Muslim  school 
building.  When  I  finished  washing  Bapuji’s  feet, 
some  Muslims  came  to  see  him.  To  me  it  seemed  as 
if  they  had  come  to  ma)ce  it  appear  that  their  hands 
were  clean  and  that  they  had  nothing  to  do  with  the 
ravages  committed  here.  Bapuji,  however,  listened  to 
them  with  extraordinary  patience. 

When  these  talks  were  going  on,  I  set  up  a  bath¬ 
room  for  Bapuji,  by  fixing  four  poles  in  the  ground 
to  form  a  square  and  enclosing  the  area  with  long  pieces 
of  cloth.  A  similar  small  enclosure  was  also  made 
where  he  could  have  his  massage.  His  commode  was 
placed  in  the  bathroom.  Then  I  set  a  vegetable  to 
boil  and  made  khakharas  for  him.  Sardar  Jivansinhaji 
and  his  troop  of  the  I.N.A.  are  accompanying  us  on 
this  march.  To  make  their  rotis\  and  lentil  curry, 
they  improvise  ovens  by  using  stones  to  support  the 
utensils  and  use  firewood  for  kindling.  I,  too,  made 
one  such  and  set  water  to  heat  for  Bapuji’s  bath.  The 
weather  was  very  cold  with  strong  winds  blowing. 
Bapuji  did  not  sleep  during  the  massage.  He  then 
observed,  “What  a  display  of  wisdom  the  Muslims 
here  show  in  their  speech;  one  would  think  they  were 
innocent  lambs!” 

Bapuji  finished  his  bath  at  11.30  a.m.  I  went  for 
my  bath  etc.,  after  attending  to  his  food.  He  had 
3  khakharas ,  8  oz.  of  milk,  vegetable-yeast  and  a 
grapefruit. 

There  is  scarcity  of  water  here.  One  has  to  fetch 
it  in  a  bucket  from  some  distance.  I  did  it,  washed 
Bapuji’s  and  my  clothes  and  also  had  my  bath.  By 
that  time  it  was  1  p.  m.  I  did  not  cook  any  food  for 
myself  today  but  had  roti  and  lentil-soup  made  by 


l  Unleavened  breads 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


83 


Sardarji.  It  was  a  true  Punjabi  roti — so  thick  that  I 
was  able  to  eat  barely  half  of  it.  But  it  was  an  en¬ 
joyable  meal,  very  well  cooked  on  three  stones  used 
for  an  oven.  With  everyone  helping,  we  finished  all 
the  work  we  had  to  do. 

As  I  was  rubbing  oil  on  Bapuji’s  feet,  I  found  that 
he  had  cut  his  soles  in  several  places  and  that  blood 
was  oozing  out.  I  could  not  check  my  tears  at  the 
sight.  I  filled  the  cuts  with  ghee.  There  is  a  specially 
deep  cut  at  the  joint  below  the  great  toe.  What  a 
difficult  ordeal  Bapuji  had  chosen  to  go  through  at 
this  age!  How  very  sad  must  the  plight  of  Indian 
people  be,  if  they  cannot  understand  this  great  man! 
Or  could  it  be  that  such  is  the  fate  destined  by  God 
for  exceptionally  noble  men?  It  was  only  because 
Ramachandraji  voluntarily  suffered  for  14  long  years 
the  torments  of  a  secluded  and  dangerous  life  in  fear¬ 
ful  jungles,  that  he  is  worshipped  as  a  god  today* 
So,  to  provide  an  ideal  of  goodness  in  practice,  God 
does  incarnate  Himself  in  the  form  of  man  from  time 
to  time.  Whenever  unrighteousness  flourishes  and 
spreads,  God  comes  down  to  earth  in  person.  I  was 
then  immediately  reminded  of  the  following  verse  of 
the  Bhagawadgita: 

Whenever  Dharma*  is  depressed, 

Satan  scores,  saints  are  suppressed 

God  deigns  here  to  take  his  birth 

To  save  from  Satan’s  grip  the  earth.  IV.  7 

I  see  concrete  fulfilment  of  this  promise  through' 
Bapuji. 

After  spinning  in  the  afternoon,  Bapuji  lay  down 
on  his  bed  for  his  mud-packs  and  discussed  the 


*That  which  sustains  the  good 


84 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


communal  tension  with  some  Muslims.  Bapuji  told 
them,*“If  you  don’t  treat  the  Hindus  as  your  kith  and 
kin,  you  will  land  yourselves  in  trouble.  It  is  child’s 
play  to  harass  the  Hindus  here,  as  you  Muslims  are  in 
the^majority.  But  is  it  just  and  honourable?  Show 
me,  please,  if  such  a  mean  action  is  suggested,  even 
cursorily,  anywhere  in  your  Koran.  I  have  made  quite 
a  deep  study  of  the  Koran-e-Sharieff.  Besides,  I 
have  many  friends  among  the  Muslims.  And  even  to¬ 
day  many  Muslim  girls  are  my  daughters  just  as  much 
as  this  girl  (pointing  to  me)  is.  One  of  them  is  Amtus- 
salaam  whom  you  must  be  knowing  as  she  is  on  a  fast 
here.  She  is  a  girl  who  will  hail  any  opportunity  to  sac¬ 
rifice  her  very  life  for  me.  So,  in  all  humility,  I  appeal 
to  you  to  dissuade  your  people  from  committing  such 
crimes,  so  that  your  own  future  may  be  bright.” 

The  Muslim  brothers  in  their  reply  pointed  out 
the  Bihar  incidents  and  put  forth  some  other  argu¬ 
ments  as  well  in  their  favour.  Bapuji  dozed  off  for  a 
short  while,  while  they  were  speaking.  He  is  very 
tired  as  he  has  been  up  and  busy  from  2  a.m.  Even  so, 
Bapuji  begged  their  pardon  for  that  lapse  in  good 
manners.  Thus,  I  get  many  such  opportunities  to 
learn  humility  from  Bapuji’s  personal  example. 

At  4  p.m.  Bapuji  had  some  fruit-salad,  3  oranges 
and  some  vegetable.  Then  he  went  to  the  prayer¬ 
meeting  which  was  attended  by  a  large  number  of 
Muslims.  On  his  return,  Hareramji  met  Bapuji. 
This  person  is  a  Harijan  servant  of  Birlaji’s.  He  had 
served  Bapuji  very  devotedly  at  Delhi.  Birlaji,  who 
knows  his  worth  has  sent  him  here  to  look  after  Bapu. 
As  Hareramji  came  and  bowed  before  Bapu,  who  in¬ 
quired  of  him,  among  other  things,  the  reason  for  his 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


85 


coming.  Rejecting  the  man’s  offer  to  serve  him, 
he  explained,  “It  is  a  self-denying  ordeal  which  I  am 
undergoing  here.  If  I  ask  the  Birla  Brothers  to  send 
me  a  staff  of  cooks,  a  car,  a  contingent  of  servants  or 
even  an  aeroplane  they  will  readily  do  so.  That  is 
the  kind  of  people  they  are.  But  that  is  not  Yajna, 
in  which  difficulties  should  be  welcomed.  For  how 
can  it  be  called  an  austere,  self-sacrificing  ordeal  when 
all  is  smooth-sailing?”  With  this  explanation,  Hare- 
ramji  was  told  to  return  to  Delhi. 

The  poor  man  was  much  disappointed.  He  came 
to  me  and  earnestly  pleaded  with  me  to  intercede  on 
his  behalf.  “But,”  I  said,  “if  Bapuji  does  not  comply 
with  Birlaji’s  request,  he  will  never  agree  with  mine. 
And  if  I  presumed  to  put  forward  a  plea  for  you,  he 
will  just  order  me  to  leave  him  and  go  home.” 

During  the  evening  walk  Bapuji  visited  the  house 
of  a  Muslim  brother  who  had  invited  him.  Bapuji 
walked  very  fast  today  both  going  and  returning. 
Sushilabahen  accompanied  him. 

On  his  return,  Bapuji  drank  a  glass  of  warm 
water  with  honey,  revised  his  prayer-discourse,  read 
the  post  and  dictated  something  to  Sushilabahen. 

I  wrote  up  my  diary,  made  Bapuji ’s  and  my  own 
beds,  packed  the  luggage  that  had  to  be  unpacked 
ag^in  in  the  morning,  and  washed  Bapuji’ s  feet.  He 
lay  down  at  10  p.m.,  and  I  pressed  his  legs  and  rubbed 
oil  on  his  head.  When  Bapuji  went  to  sleep,  I  wound 
his  yarn  on  the  reel  and  spun  my  own.  When  I 
finished,  it  was  10.30  p.m.  Bapuji  disapproved  of  my 
keeping  awake  so  late.  He  said  to  me  emphatically, 
“I  ask  you  not  to  keep  awake  more  than  about  15 
minutes  after  I  lie  down  to  sleep.  If  your  work  is  not 


86 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


finished  by  the  time  you  retire  you  can  tell  me  the 
next  day,  whatever  remains  undone.” 

I  went  to  bed  at  10.45  p.  m. 

[Bapu,  9-l-’47,  Fatehpur] 

Daspada, 

9-1 -’47,  Thursday 

Today  also  I  was  awakened  by  Bapuji  at  2  a.m. 
(in  Fatehpur)  and  told  to  go  to  sleep  early  tonight. 
After  I  lit  the  lamp,  Bapuji  spent  the  time  before 
prayers  in  reading  a  report  of  the  All-India  Spinners5 
Association  which  Jajuji  has  sent.  After  prayers  I  had 
my  diary  signed  by  Bapuji.  Then,  giving  him  honey 
in  warm  water,  I  left  him  to  extract  fruit-juice  for  him. 
Bapuji,  in  the  meanwhile,  corrected  and  signed  the 
letters  he  had  dictated  and  showed  me  the  correc¬ 
tions  when  I  returned. 

At  7.30  a.m.  sharp  we  started  from  Fatehpur  to 
come  here.  It  is  a  small  but  very  clean  hut  where  we 
have  been  put  up.  There  was  no  member  of  the 
host  family  left  except  an  old  man  who  has  lost  much 
else  besides  in  the  riots.  The  ceiling  of  the  hut  is 
made  of  cocoanut  leaves.  The  hut  looks  similar  to  a 
kuoa'" .  Bapuji  liked  this  kuba  very  much. 

After  washing  his  feet,  I  made  preparations  for 
his  massage  and  bath.  I  was  spared  much  trouble 
today,  as  Sardarji  and  his  men  dug  the  pits  to  fix  'the 
poles  and  curtained  them  off  to  make  a  bath-room 
etc.  Gol.  Jivansinhaji  cut  the  vegetable  for  Bapuji  and 
observed  with  interest  how  I  operate  the  cooker  and 
set  food  on  it  to  boil.  When  I  reported  to  Bapuji 
how  eager  Sardarji  was  to  learn  our  way  of  cooking, 


jungle-hut  made  up  of  leaves 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


87 


Bapuji  remarked,  “He  has  distinguished  himself  as  a 
soldier  and  as  an  associate  of  Subhashbabu.  He  is  also 
a  crack  shot  and  a  skilful  swordsman.  But  here  he 
has  transformed  himself  into  a  non-violent  soldier — - 
not  a  small  achievement  that.  I  have  many  such 
soldiers  with  me.  During  the  struggle  in  South 
Africa,  every  soldier  of  that  army  of  passive  resisters 
had  to  attend  to  his  own  needs.  The  entire  work  of  our 
group  was  distributed  amongst  them  all  and  each  one 
was  required  to  do  his  share.  That  highly  educated 
Indians  did  cooking  etc.  was  nothing;  even  the  Whites 
who  were  with  us  enthusiastically  joined  in.  So  I 
shouldn’t  wonder  if  Jivansinhaji  begins  to  cook  food. 
I  would  be  surprised  if  he  doesn’t  learn.  Once  you  be¬ 
come  a  soldier,  you  ought  to  learn  to  do  all  sorts 
of  work.” 

During  the  massage  Bapuji  slept  for  20  to  25 
minutes.  He  finished  his  bath  at  10  a.m.  During  his 
meals  he  glanced  through  some  literature  that  was 
brought  by  a  gentleman  from  the  Marwadi  Relief 
Association.  He  ate  3  khakharas ,  some  vegetable,  oran¬ 
ges  and  two  pieces  of  sandesh  made  from  cocoanuts, 
and  drank  some  milk. 

After  attending  to  Bapuji  while  he  ate,  I  had 
my  bath,  washed  the  clothes  and  then  had  my  lunch. 
When  I  finished,  it  was  12.30  p.m.  As  Bapuji  busied 
himself  with  writing,  I  had  some  time  during  which 
I  washed  Bapuji’s  utensils  and  wound  his  yarn  on 
the  reel.  Then  I  rubbed  ghee  on  his  legs  and  again 
left  him  to  make  the  gur  preparation  for  him.  To¬ 
day  we  were  supplied  with  about  two  and  a  half 
pounds  of  goat’s  milk.  After  copying  some  letters 
I  slept  for  a  while.  Bapuji  woke  me  up  at  about  3.15 
p.m.  At  3.30  p.m.  I  pressed  Bapuji’s  legs  as  he  lay 


88 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


down  for  his  mud-packs.  He  had  told  us  that  he  would 
have  only  milk  and  dates  and  no  vegetable  in  the 
evening.  When  I  finished  copying  Bapuji’s  diary,  I 
packed  the  luggage.  It  was  4.30  p.m.  by  then.  After 
giving  Bapuji  his  milk,  I  did  my  work  till  it  was 
prayer-time. 

After  prayers  some  local  Muslims  came  to  talk 
to  Bapuji.  He  suggested  the  formation  of  a  Peace 
Committee. 

As  the  attendance  at  the  prayer-meeting  was 
very  thin,  Bapuji  observed,  “I  am  both  happy  and 
grieved  at  the  small  number  of  people  here.  I  am 
happy  because  I  do  not  wish  people  to  attend  the 
prayer  merely  to  have  a  glimpse  of  me  or  to  present 
themselves  before  me.  But  I  have  also  heard  that 
people  are  scared  away  from  the  prayer-meeting  as 
they  are  afraid  that  if  they  attend  it,  the  police  party 
with  me  may  either  arrest  them  or  beat  them.  If  you, 
therefore,  give  your  word  of  honour  to  see  that  Gan¬ 
dhi  is  not  harmed  in  any  way,  then  I  assure  you 
that  I  will  bring  pressure  upon  the  Government — as 
I  certainly  can — to  withdraw  the  police  party  and 
thus  entirely  remove  your  baseless  fear  of  the  police. 
I  have  not  come  here  to  harass  you  or  have  you 
arrested.” 

I  pressed  Bapu’s  legs  and  rubbed  oil  as  usual 
and  after  bowing  down  to  him  went  straight  to  bed. 
It  was  9.30  p.m.  when  both  of  us  retired.  Bapuji  was 
very  pleased  to  see  me  go  to  bed  so  soon.  He  re¬ 
marked,  “If  you  make  it  a  rule  to  retire  early  like  today, 

I  shall  feel  immensely  happy.  I  hope  you  will  not 
prove  the  truth  of  our  saying,  ‘The  master’s  advice 
is  remembered  only  up  to  the  outskirts  of  the  town’ 
by  the  servant  setting  out  on  an  errand.  We  should 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM  89 

transform  it  into,  ‘The  master’s  advice  is  remembered 
to  the  end  of  life  itself.’  ” 

[Bapu,  10-1 -’47,  Daspada] 

Daspada, 
10-1 -’47,  Friday 

Bapuji  got  up  at  2  a.m.  as  usual,  woke  me  up  and 
dictated  some  letters — all  in  Gujarati — to  Mavlankar- 
dada,  Manilalkaka,  Sushilakaki,  Ramdaskaka  and 
Kahna.  It  was  nearly  prayer  time  by  then.  So  he 
brushed  his  teeth  and  attended  prayers.  Then,  as 
he  was  sipping  hot  water  with  honey,  he  talked  to 
me  for  about  40  minutes  in  a  very  serious  vein. 

Bapuji  humbled  himself  to  dust  in  that  talk.  “I 
had  accused  you,  but  now  I  freely  admit  that  it  was 
a  totally  false  accusation.  I  am  far  above  you  in 
position — in  fact  I  am  like  your  grandfather — so, 
how  can  I  beg  for  pardon  from  you?  But  still,  if  I 
do  so,  it  is  not  wrong.  But  that  you  wouldn’t  like.  I 
am  partially  satisfied  however,  that  I  have  recognized 
your  true  worth  only  through  crushing  your  heart 
with  injustice,  though  it  was  done  unconsciously. 
I  now  believe  .  .  .  said  and  I  am  glad  now  that  I 
really  know  you.  Since  yesterday  I  have  been  debating 
in  my  mind  the  question:  ‘Should  I  confess  my  mis¬ 
take  to  Manudi?  Will  she  not  get  puffed  up  with 
pride?’  This  possibility  revolved  in  my  mind  for  a 
long  time.  So,  I  lost  sleep.  I  looked  at  my  watch.  It 
was  2  a.m.  Something  within  prodded  me.  ‘You  have 
to  wake  up  Manudi,’  it  said,  ‘it  is  your  duty  to  tell 
her  that  your  mind  now  accepts  her  innocence  in  the 
affair.’  Suppose  I  break  down  under  this  strain,  and  die 
without  making  the  confession!  I  see  nothing  but 


90 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


darkness  all  around.  The  whole  atmosphere  is  sur¬ 
charged  with  lies  and  untruth.  At  one  end  of  India, 
trouble  has  actually  flared  up — in  Bihar;  and  again 
there  is  no  harmony  anywhere  else  in  the  country. 
I  want  to  stand  up  against  it  all,  living  in  its  midst. 
I  don’t  know  how  long  I  live.  Just  observe,  how¬ 
ever,  how  God  sustains  me.  Though  I  sleep  at  10 
or  1 1  p.m.,  rise  at  2  or  2.30  a.m.,  do  my  work  at  high 
pressure  and  get  no  rest  at  all,  I  carry  on  somehow ! 
That  itself  is  a  wonder.  I  felt  suddenly  that  lest  I  dis¬ 
appear  from  the  world  shortly,  I  should  give  you 
some  idea  of  what  I  now  feel  about  you  and  speak 
out  frankly.” 

Giving  his  view  of  an  ideal  marriage  he  observed, 
"It  is  no  sin  to  marry.  But  we  have  debased  mar¬ 
riage  into  something  akin  to  it.  By  mutual  under¬ 
standing  between  husband  and  wife,  marriage  is 
meant  to  share  the  burden  of  the  continuous  turn  of 
the  great  wheel  of  life  on  earth,  i.e.  to  be  helpful  in 
removing  or  mitigating  the  sorrows  of  the  world.  A 
married  couple  is  like  the  two  wheels  of  a  carriage. 
But  nowadays  marriage  panders  mainly  to  lust  and 
encourages  it.  And  then  the  couple  begets  many  chil¬ 
dren  who  become  street  waifs  and  wander  about  like 
uncared-for-cattle  and  starve  for  want  of  food.  Milk 
for  them  is  quite  out  of  the  question.  The  husband  and 
the  wife  are  always  at  cross  purposes,  quarrelling 
and  grinding  their  teeth  in  wrath;  their  bodies  are 
reduced  to  skeletons.  Such  is  the  end  of  marriage 
in  many  cases ;  so,  I  warn  all  girls  to  think  twice  before 
plunging  into  it.  People  find  it  very  difficult  to  observe 
brahmacharya  after  marriage.  If  a  couple  does  so  and 
lead  a  controlled,  sane,  and  thoughtful  life,  they 
would  rise  to  great  heights.  If  I  have  risen,  it  is  not 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


91 


because  I  became  a  Bar-at-law;  and  Ba*  is  adored, 
almost  worshipped,  today  not  because  she  was  my 

wife,  but  because  we  observed  brahmacharya.  Let  me 
say,  moreover,  that  if  Ba  had  not  remained  steadfast 
to  our  principles,  I  am  sure  we  could  never  have 
achieved  what  we  have.  It  is  Ba  who  really  deserves 
the  credit  for  the  title  of  Mahatma  which  the  people 
have  chosen  to  confer  upon  me.  To  observe  brahma¬ 
charya  is  to  be  entirely  passionless.  A  man  who  keeps 
to  this  rule  will  never  be  tempted  to  cast  a  lustful 
glance  even  on  a  nymph  if  she  came  to  seduce  him. 
Such  a  man  is  devoid  of  anger,  infatuation,  untruth, 
violence,  tendency  to  steal,  possessiveness,  etc.  in  him. 
I  go  to  the  length  of  asserting  that  these  devil’s  imps 
can  never  be  his  undoing.  If,  with  all  these  virtues, 
that  man  is  always  in  tune  with  the  Lord  in  his  heart, 
then,  I  say,  not  only  will  he  never  get  ill,  but  even  a 
pimple  will  not  fester  on  his  skin;  and  he  will  meet 
death  as  his  friend,  repeating  in  his  heart  the  name 
of  God.  So,  there  is  no  possibility  of  his  dying  a 
wretched  death.  This  is  the  advantage  of  married 
life  rightly  lived.  But  only  the  finest  souls  are  able  to 
attain  such  a  state.  If  our  soul  is  not  strong  enough, 
nothing  can  be  gained  (by  marriage)  and  one  would 
be  like  ...  or  ...  . 

“I  will  give  you  an  instance  from  everyday  life. 
Do  you  know  how  the  thick  bajri  rotis  are  patted  into 
shape  ?  I  still  remember  those  that  my  mother  used 
to  make.  Nowadays  they  make  the  round  shape  by 
patting  the  lump  of  dough  on  a  wooden  disc.  But 
my  mother  and  grandma  used  to  hold  the  lump 
between  their  palms  and  skilfully  shape  it.  They  did 
not  need  the  wooden  disc  at  all.  But  if  one  is  not  able 


*Kasturba.  The  word  also  means  ‘mother’. 


92 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


to  do  it  with  one’s  hands,  the  wooden  disc  is  of 
course  needed.  But  the  bread  patted  between  the 
palms  is  any  day  sweeter  than  that  expanded  on  the 
disc  with  one  palm.  You  have  perhaps  no  idea  of  its 
excellent  taste. 

“In  the  same  way,  one  should  marry  in  order  to 
render  greater  service  to  one’s  fellow-men  by  joining 
two  forces  together.  Service  means  to  do  good  to  one’s 
country.  But  that  does  not  mean  that  one  cannot 
do  national  service  unless  one  becomes,  say,  a  Minis¬ 
ter  of  the  State.  To  look  after  the  family  in  the  right 
spirit  is  also  national  service.  Take  the  simple 
example  of  cooking.  It  ought  to  be  such  as  not  to  let 
a  single  grain  of  corn  go  waste  in  these  hard  days, 
and  to  supply  all  that  the  body  needs  with  the  mini¬ 
mum  of  dishes.  The  clothes  we  wear  should  be  only 
for  the  protection  of  our  bodies.  Not  a  single  country¬ 
man  of  ours  should  go  without  food  or  raiment.  There¬ 
fore,  our  stock  of  articles  should  be  limited  to  bare 
necessities.  There  are  many  women  today  who  are 
thrifty,  but  they  conserve  more  than  they  require. 
Hence,  others  have  to  do  without,  or  buy  them  at 
exorbitant  rates.  That  is  selfish  stinginess.  We  must, 
therefore,  train  ourselves  to  keep  national  interest 
always  before  us.  Such  a  housewife  renders,  to  my 
mind,  the  greatest  national  service.  National  ser¬ 
vice  has  nowadays  come  to  mean  striving  for  a  big 
name,  according  to  many  now,  through  which  one 
gets  a  notice  in  the  papers  or  is  photographed  —  which 
is  better  —  or  secures  a  ministership  as  a  reward  for 
going  to  jail.  So  everyone  wants  to  grab  power  in 
order  to  rise  to  a  ministership  in  the  end.  But  how 
can  even  good  ministers  do  any  notable  work 
without  the  people’s  support?  The  country  does 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


93 


require,  among  others,  ministers  too.  But  a  minister 
can  adorn  his  post  only  if  he  deserves  it.  It  is  our 
duty  to  help  him  so  that  he  may  shine  in  his  job.  If  we 
can  understand  this,  we  shall  accept  the  truth  that 
even  an  illiterate  woman  can  serve  our  country,  if  she 
bears  in  mind  national  interest.  To  you  alone  I  reveal 
all  my  thoughts  in  detail.  I  have  also  spoken  about 
these  matters  to  .  .  .  but  a  little  differently  as  she 
was  a  married  woman.  You  are  still  a  child.  Though 
you  are  seventeen,  to  me  you  are  but  a  baby  of  six  or 
seven. 

“To  hope  for  an  early  settlement  of  the  problems 
that  Noakhali  faces  is  a  vain  hope.  It  is  like  building 
a  castle  in  the  air.  I  see  no  signs  yet  of  the  complete 
disappearance  of  antipathy  between  Hindus  and  Mus¬ 
lims.  That  will  come  when  my  heart  grows  into  a  full¬ 
blown  flower  of  perfection.  I  cannot  claim  as  yet  that 
my  remembrance  of  God  has  penetrated  to  the  inner¬ 
most  depths  of  my  heart.  My  efforts  in  this  direc¬ 
tion  certainly  continue. 

“You  have  no  reason  to  get  into  a  pensive  mood 
from  my  talk  today.  I  am  simply  discharging  my 
duty  as  your  mother.  I  am  feeding  you  with  what  my 
mind  is  filled  with.  Write  it  down  in  your  diary  only 
after  careful  reflection,  for  the  talk  today,  I  am 
afraid,  is  a  little  above  you.  Besides,  one  topic  mer¬ 
ged  into  another  till  my  conversation  covered  several 
subjects.  What  I  have  told  you  is  of  fundamental 
importance.  It  may  mould  your  future  life.  And  when 
I  am  dead  it  will  prove  of  great  value  to  you,  to  Jaya- 
sukhlal  and  to  your  sisters.  Though  a  male  in  physi¬ 
cal  form,  I  have  become  your  mother  in  essence,  so 
I  was  relieved  of  a  load  on  my  mind  today  by  telling 


94  THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 

you  how  I  felt.” 

[Fairly  well-written,  but  rather  too  long.^ 

Bapu,  Lamchar,  ll-l-’47,  Saturday] 

Jagatpur, 
10-1 -’47,  Friday 

Bapuji  told  me  all  this  in  the  small  hours  of  the 
morning.  It  took  me  a  whole  hour  to  write  it  down. 
Bapuji  busied  himself  after  prayers  in  correcting  his 
prayer-discourse  and  in  some  other  work  and  I  in 
finishing  all  my  writing  work.  He  has  not  yet  seen  my 
report  of  our  talk.  He  will  think  it  rather  long,  I  am 
afraid.  He  came  out  at  7.40  a.m.  and  we  proceeded 
on  our  march.  We  were  delayed  by  10  minutes  because 
Bapuji  had  not  finished  his  Bengali  lesson  earlier. 

Though  our  path  from  Daspada  to  this  place  had 
been  swept  clean  beforehand,  Muslim  brothers  had 
dirtied  it  by  throwing  dung  and  human  excreta 
here  and  there.  We  came  to  know  that  it  had  been 
intentionally  done.  But  Bapuji  said,  “I  don’t  mind 
it.  There’s  nothing  wrong  if  they  let  off  pent-up 
steam  against  me  in  this  way.” 

This  is  a  Hindu  cottage.  It  was  already  10.30 
a.m.  when  we  finished  our  usual  work,  like  mas¬ 
sage,  bath  etc.,  after  reaching  here.  Bapuji  slept 
for  40  minutes  during  the  massage.  Morning  meal  at 
1 1  a.m.  made  up  of  2  khakharas ,  vegetable,  milk  and 
one  pineapple.  From  12.30  to  1  p.m.  he  relaxed.  Then 
he  drank  cocoanut-water,  spun  yarn  and  talked  to 
Pyarelalji  who  came  at  2  p.m.  Shortly  afterwards, 
some  ladies  called.  Many  of  them  had  been  forcibly 
converted  to  Islam.  As  the  husbands  and  sons  of  some 
of  them  had  been  murdered,  they  were  plunged  in 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM  93 

grief.  With  sobs  and  tears  they  poured  out  their  stri¬ 
cken  hearts  to  Bapuji.  “The  only  difference  between 
you  and  me,  he  consoled  them,  “is  that  you  cry  and 
I  don’t.  But  my  heart  sorrows  for  you.  Your  grief  is 
my  grief;  that’s  why  I  have  come  here.  There  is  no 
remedy  for  our  pain  except  faith  in  God.  It  is  the 
one,  most  efficacious  penacea.  We  may  shed  seas 
of  tears,  but  that  will  not  bring  back  the  dead.  If  we 
imbibe  this  truth,  there  will  be  no  cause  for  such 
outbursts  of  grief.” 

These  words  of  consolation  Bapuji  uttered  with 
the  deepest  gravity  and  sympathy.  The  atmosphere 
was  highly  charged  as  he  spoke.  What  he  said  was 
such  as  would  melt  the  stoniest  heart. 

Bapuji  had  his  mud-packs  from  3.30  to  4  p.m. ; 
in  the  meantime  he  received  some  visitors  and 
signed  some  letters. 

He  took  only  some  gur  in  the  evening,  and  gave 
up  fruit,  milk  and  everything  else,  saying,  “The  meet¬ 
ing  with  those  sisters  is  still  vivid.  Who  knows  how 
many  more  tragic  sights  like  this  I  am  fated  to  see!” 

The-  evening  prayers,  however,  were  held  as 
usual,  and  he  had  his  walk,  too,  after  them.  On  his 
return  he  corrected  his  prayer-speech  and  talked  to 
various  visitors.  At  8  p.m.  he  lay  down  and  listened  to 
the  newspapers. 

Bapuji  got  to  sleep  at  nearly  10  p.m.  I  checked 
the  luggage  and  packed  it.  Then  finished  this  diary* 
and  copied  Bapuji’s.  It  is  now  10.30  p.m.  and  so  went 
to  bed.  Bapuji  had  spun  120  rounds  of  yarn  today. 

I  applied  hazeline  cream  sent  by  Baba  to  the 
soles  of  Bapuji’s  feet  and  bandaged  them  before  he 
slept. 


96 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


Lamchar, 
ll-l-’47,  Saturday 

Spent  the  night  at  Jagatpur.  Bapuji  woke  me  up 
at  2  a.m.  Asked  me  if  I  had  written  up  my  diary. 
Then  dictated  letters,  the  first  to  Madhavdasmama 
(brother  of  revered  Kasturba) ;  and  the  second  to 
....  He  gave  up  dictating  when  it  was  time  to  get 
ready  for  prayers.  As  he  was  brushing  his  teeth  he  in¬ 
quired  of  me  regarding  my  food  etc.  Despite  his 
multifarious  duties  and  interests,  Bapu  keeps  himself 
informed  about  me  in  minute  detail!  After  prayers 
1  gave  him  warm  water,  extracted  fruit  juice,  wash¬ 
ed  utensils  and  packed  our  luggage.  I  had,  this  morn¬ 
ing,  a  fairly  easy  time  as  I  had  packed  up  every¬ 
thing  last  night,  except  those  needed  for  the  next 
morning.  So,  I  doubled  Bapuji  s  yarn.  At  7.30  a.m. 
Bapuji  left  his  bed  and  went  to  the  bathroom,  and  I 
tied  the  last  bundle  together  with  our  bedding. 
When  it  was  exactly  7.40  a.m.  we  left  Jagatpur. 

Hymns  and  chants  continued  all  through  our 
route.  On  the  way  we  saw  building  completely  burnt 
down.  There  were  blood-stains  too.  Murders  must 
have  been  committed  there,  we  inferred. 

As  I  had  informed  Bapuji  that  I  had  finished 
writing  yesterday’s  diary,  I  put  it  on  his  table  along 
with  the  post  as  soon  as  we  arrived  here.  When  I 
was  washing  his  feet,  he  glanced  through  the  letters 
and  signed  them.  He  wanted  to  go  through  my  diary 
during  the  massage,  but  as  he  was  too  tired  he  went  to 
sleep. 

So,  after  his  bath,  I  read  it  to  him  as  he  was  eat¬ 
ing.  Bapuji  always  asks  me  to  write  briefly,  but  I 
haven’t  yet  mastered  the  art.  “I  want  to  write  down 
teach  and  every  word  you  utter,”  I  argued.  “It’s  only 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM  97 

your  devotion,55  he  replied,  “but  I  don’t  want  to 
insist  on  brevity,  as  I  do  like  you  to  write  down  as 
much  as  you  can;  practice,  I  believe,  improves  the 
hand.55  Then  he  signed  my  diary,  with  the  remark 
that  the  entries  were  lengthy.  But  on  the  whole,  it 
seems  he  liked  it.  No  important  point  was  missed  as 
I  had  written  it  immediately  after  our  talk. 

His  meal  consisted  of  a  vegetable,  milk  12  oz. 
and  chatni  (seasoning)  made  of  5  almonds  and  5 
cashews  ground  and  seasoned  with  salt  etc.  The  al¬ 
monds  and  the  cashews  had  been  sent  by  Jayanti- 
bhai  from  Karachi;  the  parcel  reached  us  with  many 
redirections. 

Except  for  the  fact  that  Bapuji’s  great  toe  on  the 
right  foot  is  aching  today,  there  is  nothing  particular 
to  note. 

\ 

The  march  from  Jagatpur  to  Lamchar  was  very 
uncomfortable.  The  ground  was  very  cold  and  we 
had  to  make  our  way  through  many  farms,  which 
were  close  together.  But  there  was  a  pleasant  change 
worth  noting.  Today,  for  the  first  time  every  Muslim 
brother  we  came  across  cordially  acknowledged 
.Bapuji’s  salutations  and  even  saluted  him  before 
he  could. 

Bapuji  fell  asleep  early  tonight  while  listening  to 
the  papers,  but  got  up  again  at  10  p.m.  I  wrote  up 
my  diary  in  the  interval  and  also  wrote  letters  home. 
When  I  was  taking  down  his  yarn  on  the  winding  reel, 
Bapuji  opened  his  eyes,  got  up  and  went  to  the  bath¬ 
room.  I  made  his  bed;  he  lay  down  on  it  at  10.30 
p.m.  I  rubbed  oil  on  his  head,  pressed  his  legs  and 
bowed  down  to  him  as  usual.  With  parental  love  he 
softly  passed  his  hand  over  my  body.  I  don’t  know 

L-7 


98 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


when  sleep  overtook  me.  The  work  here  is  heavy 
indeed  but  it  induces  sleep  in  less  than  5  minutes. 

Karpada, 
12-l-547,  Sunday 

Bapuji  was  strongly  advised  by  Dr.  Sushilabahen 
not  to  get  up  as  early  as  at  1.30  or  2  a.m.  It  affects 
his  health,  she  said.  After  a  good  deal  of  argument, 
Bapuji  was  finally  persuaded  to  abide  by  her  advice. 
By  force  of  habit,  however,  he  woke  up  at  1.30  a.m. 
today  and  so  did  I.  But  both  of  us  went  to  sleep 
again,  to  awaken  at  prayer  time.  After  prayers,  he 
drank  honey  in  warm  water  and  also  had  a  glass  of 
fruit  juice.  As  he  had  to  talk  to  Sushilabahen,  he 
dictated  very  little  to  me. 

We  left  Lamchar  at  7.40  a.m.,  to  come  here  at 
8.45.  On  the  way  he  asked  ...  to  mingle  freely 
with  all  and  be  one  with  them.  Considering  everything, 
it  was  quite  a  grand  reception  that  the  men  and  women 
of  Karpada  gave  Bapuji.  This  is  Sushilabahen  Pai’s 
village.  She  has  built  up  great  prestige  for  herself 
among  the  people  here.  Girls  and  women  especially 
look  up  to  her  with  respect.* 

She  had  made  splendid  arrangements  for  Bapuji’s 
massage  and  bath,  which  Bapuji  had  immediately 
upon  arrival  here.  This  saved  us  much  time.  For  lunch 
he  had  some  vegetable,  sttndesh,  milk,  five  almonds 
and  five  cashewnuts.  These  last  Sushilabahen  had 
hoarded  for  a  long  time  with  a  view  to  give  them  to 
Bapuji  when  he  chanced  to  visit  her  home.  “Then 

*  Sushilabahen  is  now  a  Secretary  of  the  Kasturba  Memorial 
Trust,  but  when  Bapuji  was  in  Noakhali,  he  had  entrusted  one 
village  to  each  of  his  co-workers;  accordingly  this  was  her 
village. 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


99 

it  is  something  like  Shabari’s  berries,”*  remarked  Bapu. 

There  was  a  ladies’  meeting  at  midday.  Bapuji 
exhorted  the  large  audience  to  take  to  spinning.  Then 
another  meeting  of  handicraftsmen  was  held.  These 
took  up  Bapuji  s  entire  time  till  the  evening.  He 
took  only  milk  and  some  papaiya .  On  a  dhanush  takli 
Bapuji  spun  as  many  as  150  rounds  of  yarn  in  nearly 
45  minutes.  As  h'e  felt  very  tired  he  went  to  sleep 
early,  at  8.45  p.m.  His  silence  had  begun  at  6  minutes 

past  6  p.m.  Sardar  Niranjansingh  Gil  had  visited 
Bapuji. 

[Bapu,  Narayanpur,  15-D’47] 

Shahpur, 

13-l-’47,  Monday 

Bapuji  woke  up  at  4  a.m.  The  morning  prayer 
was  conducted  by  Sushilabahen  Pai  in  Karpada. 
Then  he  had  warm  water  with  honey  as  usual.  He 
sent  a  telegram  to  Kahimkhan  regarding  Amtus- 
salaambahen  who  was  on  a  fast.  While  reading  the 
post  Bapuji  fell  asleep.  He  woke  up  at  exactly  7.30 
a.m.  and  left  Karpada  at  7.40  to  come  here.  Sushila¬ 
bahen  Pai  put  vermilion  marks  on  the  foreheads  of 
all  of  us  before  we  set  off.  Both  the  Sushilabahens 
(Dr.  Nayar  and  Pai)  and  Pyarelalji  accompanied  us. 

*Shabari  according  to  Ramayana,  was  an  aboriginal  old  woman, 
living  in  Dandakaranya.  She  was  greatly  devoted  to  Rama,  who 
could  visit  her  cottage  after  a  very  long  wait.  Utter  stranger  to 
decent  mannerism,  she  -presented  berries  to  Rama,  which  she 
had  tasted  previously  with  a  view  to  make  herself  sure  that 
they  were  sweet  and  not  bitter.  For  her  deep  devotion,  Rama 
ate  them,  though  by  so  doing  he  went  against  both  religious 
and  social  customs. 


100 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


On  the  way  Pyarelalji  explained  some  points  regard¬ 
ing  the  verses  in  the  12th  canto  of  the  Bhagavadgita. 

We  reached  here  exactly  at  8.30  a.m.  I  massaged 
Bapuji  and  attended  on  him  while  he  had  his  bath 
etc.  today.  He  took  2  khakharas ,  milk  8  oz.,  one  lemon, 
a  raw  vegetable  and  a  piece  of  sandesh.  As  he  was 
having  a  confidential  talk  with  .  .  .  while  he  ate,  I 
left  him  to  do  my  own  work  which  I  could  thus  finish 
a  little  earlier  than  usual.  At  the  end  of  his  meal, 
Bapuji  lay  down  in  the  sunshine  with  his  head 
covered.  Right  up  to  the  evening  he  basked  in  the  sun 
in  this  manner.  Suchetabahen  arrived  in  the  after¬ 
noon  and  gave  a  fearful,  hair-raising  description  of 
the  horrors  perpetrated.  With  fiendish  cruelty  Hindu 
women  had  been  ravished.  Dr.  Sushilabahen  Nayar 
went  to  Lamchar  to  perform  a  post-mortem  of  the  corpses 
there.  After  examining  Amtussalaambahen  too,  she 
returned  at  4.30  p.m. 

In  the  evening  Bapuji  had  8  oz.  of  milk  and  8 
dates  steam-cooked. 

He  returned  a  little  earlier  from  his  walk  after  the 
evening  prayer.  At  8.15  p.m.  I  washed  Bapuji’s 
feet  and  then  he  lay  down  to  sleep.  The  pain  on  his 
right  great  toe  has  abated.  4 ‘By  too  much  waiting 
upon  me  you  all  have  made  my  body  too  delicate,  and 
with  it  my  feet.  Who  has  to  suffer  the  consequences 
except  myself?”  Bapuji  asked. 

[Bapu,  Narayanpur,  15-1 -’47] 

Bhatialpur, 

14-l-’47 

Awoke  at  4  a.m.  as  usual  now.  Talked  with  our 
hostess  at  Shahpur.  She  said  that  they  were  in  con¬ 
stant  dread  of  fresh  attacks.  “If  that  is  so,”  said 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM  101 

Bapuji,  “it  is  your  duty  to  leave  this  area  for  a  safer 
place.” 

Gave  him  pineapple  juice  after  his  glass  of  warm 
water.  Then  Bapuji  began  writing  the  Bengali  alpha¬ 
bet,  but  dozed  off.  Woke  up  again  at  7.35  a.m.  and 
left  for  Bhatialpur. 

This  is  Pyarelalji’s  village.  He  stopped  on  the  way 
several  times  to  visit,  for  a  couple  of  minutes  or  there¬ 
about,  the  homes  of  Muslim  families.  When  he  did 
so,  I  used  to  go  into  their  inner  apartments  and  exhort 
the  ladies  to  come  out  to  see  Bapuji.  “Here  is  the 
Mahatma  setting  his  holy  feet  into  your  very  home!” 
I  would  say,  “How  can  you  remain  without  seeing 
him  and  being  blessed?”  At  one  garden-home  the 
ladies  first  agreed  but  then  refused  and  saw  Bapuji  from 
a  distance;  but  at  another,  they  expressed  a  desire  to 
be  photographed  with  Bapuji.  So  he  sat  in  a  chair 
in  the  middle,  with  the  ladies  standing  on  his  right 
and  left,  and  a  boy  of  the  family  took  the  photo.  It 
seemed  that  both  the  women  and  the  men  in  this 
family  had  some  respect  for  Bapuji.  Never  does  Bapuji 
pose  for  a  photo,  but  he  made  an  exception  in  this 
instance.  This  is  literally  the  first  occasion,  after  our 
coming  here,  when  ladies  met  him  so  freely. 

We  came  to  Bhatialpur  at  9.15  a.m.  Both  the 
Sushilabahens  were  with  us.  Dr.  Sushilabahen  mas¬ 
saged  Bapuji.  I  waited  upon  him  during  his  bath 
and  Pyarelalji  had  made  khakharas  for  him.  He  took 
two  of  them  at  his  meal  with  8  oz.  of  milk  and  a  raw 
vegetable.  Sardar  Niranjansingh  Gil  had  come  here 
in  the  afternoon.  A  notable  incident  happened  in  the 
evening.  There  is  a  temple  of  Thakurji  (Lord 
Shrikrishna)  here,  whose  image  had  been  taken  away. 
Bapuji  installed  it  again  in  the  presence  of  many 


102 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


Muslims.  It  is  not  a  small  thing  that  the  very  persons 
who  had  removed  the  idol,  now  presented  themselves 
and  even  took  a  vow  to  defend  it  at  the  cost  of  their 
lives.  The  ceremony  ended  with  arati*  and  distribution 
of  prasad\  to  all  present. 

Routine  items  like  prayers  etc.  were  carried  out 
as  usual.  He  had  only  milk  and  one  apple,  steam- 
boiled,  in  the  evening.  He  slept  at  10  p.m. 

[Bapu,  Narayanpur,  15-1 -’47] 


IX 

THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 

Narayanpur, 

15-l-’47 

Following  his  new  rule  Bapuji  got  up  at  4  a.m. 
today  also,  but  told  me  that  he  had  been  awake  since 
3.  Prayers  etc.,  as  usual.  We  left  Bhatialpur  at  7.35 
a.m.  for  this  place.  Sushilabahen  left  us  midway  to  go 
to  her  own  village. 

On  arrival  here  I  washed  Bapuji’s  feetA  As  I  was 
then  making  preparations  for  his  bath,  I  found  to  my 
dismay  that  the  stone  for  rubbing  his  legs  was  missing 
from  the  box  of  food  items  where  I  generally  put  it 
and  it  could  not  be  found  even  after  a  strenuous  search. 
I  reported  the  matter  to  Bapuji,  who  had  some  stinging 
words  to  say:  “You  have  committed  a  serious  blunder. 
It  may  do  if  Manudi  is  lost,  but  how  can  the  loss 
of  the  stone  be  excused?  So  now,  I  want  none  but 

^Waving  of  lights 

-j-Sweet  distributed  after  worship  of  an  idol  or  after  some 
religious  function. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


103 


you  to  find  it.  Ask  Nirmalbabu  to  prepare  my  meal, 
but  the  stone  you  yourself  must  go  and  find.  If  you 
do  so,  you  will  never  forget  anything  afterwards.  And 
it  will  be  your  test  as  to  how  far  you  have  gained 
courage  and  mine  as  to  how  far  I  have  been  able  to 
instil  it  into  you.” 

I  asked  his  permission  to  take  a  volunteer  with 
me  which  he  refused  pointblank.  So,  I  walked  away 
in  a  temper,  leaving  him  inside.  I  was  all  the  while 
in  a  state  of  terrible  suspense  for  fear  of  being  seized 
by  a  ruffian.  It  was  a  dense  and  fairly  extensive 
thicket  of  cocoanut  trees  and  the  track  had  too  many 
windings  to  be  easily  followed  without  getting  lost. 
But  I  finally  reached  the  place.  On  our  way  here  from 
Bhatialpur  I  had  taken  out  the  stone  to  rub  and  warm 
Bapuji’s  bare  feet  which  had  got  cold.  The  old  lady 
with  whom  we  had  stayed  had  thrown  it  away,  but  it 
was  found.  At  1  p.m.  I  returned  with  the  stone.  I 
had  breathed  God’s  name  all  the  way  with  an  earnest¬ 
ness  which,  perhaps,  I  had  never  before  felt  at  any  time 
in  my  life.  I  was  awfully  hungry  too,  and  deeply 
grieved  for  my  lapse.  All  this  had  upset  me  and  I 
threw  the  stone  at  Bapuji’s  feet  saying  “Here  is  your 
stone  now”  and  I  could  not  help  breaking  down,  and 
crying. 

But  Bapuji  burst  into  a  loud  laugh.  ‘What  an 
ordeal  I  had  to  pass  through,’  I  thought  in  irritation, 
‘and  Bapuji  finds  it  amusing!’  He,  however,  gave 
his  explanation  :  “You  were  tested  today.  Whatever 
God  does,  He  does  for  our  good.  Didn’t  I  warn  you 
on  the  very  first  day,  saying,  ‘Joining  me  in  my  sacri¬ 
fice  means  a  test  of  great  courage  and  you  will  fail 
in  my  eyes  if  you  lapse  from  my  principles  in  the 
slightest  degree.’  You  do  remember  that  warning,  I 


104 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


suppose.  So  through  this  little  stone  you  were  put  to  a 
test,  and,  in  my  opinion,  you  have  passed  it.  You 
can’t  imagine  how  glad  I  am  at  your  success!  And 
didn’t  you  learn  an  excellent  lesson  in  addition?  Now 
don’t  be  careless  in  future  and  think  glibly  that  you 
can  find  many  stones  for  the  lost  one.  Learn  to  pre¬ 
serve  carefully  every  little  useful  thing  we  have.” 

“Bapuji!”  I  replied  now  restored,  “if  ever  I 
took  God’s  name  from  the  very  depths  of  my  heart, 
it  was  today.”  “Yes,”  agreed  Bapuji,  “one  is  reminded 
of  God  only  when  one  is  in  trouble.  And  still,  how 
infinite  is  God’s  grace!  Man  simply  forgets  God  in 
his  happy  days,  and  yet  on  the  most  perfunctory  re¬ 
membrance  of  Him,  God  comes  to  his  rescue  when 
he  is  afflicted  and  saves  him.” 

This  sudden,  entirely  unforeseen  calamity  took 
up  my  time  up  to  midday.  No  other  work  could  be  done. 

As  it  was  already  1.30  p.m.  Bapuji  advised  me, 
“You  may  be  hungry.  You  can  eat  something  if  you 
like.  But  I  suggest  that  you  take  only  cocoanut  water 
or  a  fruit  and  then  some  rest.  That  will  refresh  you.” 
“But  I  have  so  much  work  on  hand  still!”  I  objected; 
“I  shall  first  wash  the  clothes  and  finish  all  my  work. 
I  shall  then  have  my  meal.” 

Bapuji  did  not  like  it  but  said  nothing. 

He  sees  that  his  treatment  of  me  is  just  and  kind. 
If  he  sent  me  afar  in  the  blazing  sun,  he  also  insisted 
that  I  should  have  only  light  food  and  sufficient  rest 
to  be  refreshed.  That  is  Bapuji  all  over,  and  one 
does  get  good  training  at  his  hands. 

The  evening  prayers  were  held  as  usual.  During 
the  walk  that  followed,  Bapuji  said,  “I,  at  least,  would 
have  danced  with  joy  if  bad  characters  had  laid  hands 
on  you  and  you  had  died  resisting  them.  But  if  you 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


105 


had  run  down  here  in  fright,  I  would  have  been  very 
unhappy.  There  was  a  definite  purpose  in  sending 
you  today.  I  took  the  occasion  of  the  loss  of  the 
stone  to  test  your  courage.  It  cannot  have  struck 
you  what  serious  risk  I  was  undertaking  in  sending 
you  thus  alone  and  helpless.  I  always  wanted  to  know 
how  much  you  have  assimilated  of  that  song  The 
Lonely  Pilgrim ,  which  you  sing  so  lustily.  Then  God 
willed  it  so  and  you  forgot  the  stone;  thus,  things  turned 
out  as  I  wished.  Realize  from  this  incident,  how  hard- 
hearted  I  can  be.  I  myself  knew  it  only  today  and  you 
must  have  certainly  come  to  know  of  it  by  now.” 

Bapuji  had  not  seen  my  diary  ever  since  we  left 
Lamchar;  I,  therefore,  hurriedly  read  it  to  him  in  20 
minutes  on  our  return  from  the  walk. 

Then  he  listened  to  the  papers.  Preparation 
for  sleep  at  9.30  p.m.  Bapuji  spun  120  rounds  today. 
There  was  no  change  in  his  meal  except  that  he 
reduced  his  milk  to  6  oz.  from  his  usual  8. 

[Bapu,  15-1 -’47,  Narayanpur] 

Ramdevpur, 

16-l-547 

Bapuji  roused  me  from  sleep  at  3  a.m.  and  asked 
me  to  stretch  my  limbs  full  length  as  I  had  contracted 
them  against  the  cold. 

Then  he  said,  <c.  .  .  You  have  been  doing  every¬ 
thing  till  now  on  the  basis  of  your  simple  faith  in  me. 
But  you  will  be  entirely  transformed  if  you  do  every¬ 
thing  henceforth  with  a  background  of  wisdom  and 
understanding.  Our  faith  should  not  be  blind,  but 
enlightened  with  knowledge.  For  instance,  a  man 
may  learn  the  alphabet  or  even  the  words  of  a  lan¬ 
guage;  but  if  he  does  not  understand  the  significance 


106 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


of  the  letters  and  of  the  symbols  like  those  which  make 
for  example,  a  short,  £i5  or  long  ‘ee’  or  puts  punctua¬ 
tion  marks  like  commas,  semicolons,  full  stop  etc.  at 
random,  it  is  quite  possible  that  he  may  in  his  ignorance 
write  a  sentence  meaning  just  the  opposite  to  the  one 
intended.  In  the  same  way  you  must  no  longer  rely 
upon  simple  faith  alone  but  must  saturate  it  with 

knowledge  and  wisdom.  Let  me  remind  you  in  this 
context  of  some  of  the  Gita  verses: 

Whate’er  the  fire  burns 
Down  to  ashes  it  turns ; 

And  so  does  wisdom  burn 
The  Karma  which  you  earn 
By  actions  fair  and  foul; 

And  frees  from  them  the  soul.  1 

Nothing  sacred  more 
Than  wisdom  full  of  lore; 

The  sage  in  course  of  time 
Attains  that  state  sublime, 

When  he  has  fixed  himself 

By  yoga  within  the  Self.  2 

When  mind’s  control  he  gains, 

By  faith  which  him  sustains, 

Steady  he  ever  remains 
And  love  for  God  retains; 

Then  wisdom  he  attains 

And  lasting  peace  obtains.  3 

With  mind  where  doubt  resides. 

Ignorant  folly  besides, 

That  doubting  faithless  soul 
To  drift  in  life  his.  role 
On  earth,  in  heavens  above 
Is  lost  sans  faith,  sans  love.  4 

(iv.  37-40) 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL  107 

“So  you  should  cultivate  faith,  but  faith  imbued 
with  knowledge  and  wisdom.” 

It  was  prayer  time  by  then.  After  that  Nirmalda 
showed  his  translation  of  the  prayer  speech  to  Bapu. 
When  I  was  writing  my  diary  .  .  .  came,  inquired 
what  preparations  his  village  should  make  before 
Bapuji’s  arrival  there,  and  went  back.  We  left  Nara- 
yanpur  at  7.30  a. m.  We  had  to  walk  a  longer  distance 
than  was  usual  to  come  here,  and  it  was  intensely  cold, 
with  no  sunshine.  Bapuji  found  on  the  way  that  the 
bandage  on  his  right  big  toe  had  loosened  and  was 
left  somewhere  behind.  He  said,  “That  bandage 
must  be  recovered  somehow.”  One  of  Col.  Jivan- 
sinha’s  men  went  back  nearly  half  the  distance  and 
returned  with  it.  Seeing  it  Bapuji  was  delighted  and 
remarked,  “I  am  so  glad!  What  a  great  loss  to  India 
it  would  be  if  we  lose  even  a  strip  of  cloth  through 
idleness !” 

On  the  way,  Bapuji  visited  a  garden-house  of  a 
Muslim  family,  as  the  lady  of  the  house  had  prepared 
warm  water  to  wash  his  feet.  We  reached  here  at 
8.45  a.m.  Here  also  hot  water  for  his  feet  was  ready. 
This  is  Kanubhai’s  village.  He  has  made  excellent 
arrangements  for  Bapuji’s  halt  here.  He  had  already 
set  up  the  bath  and  massage  rooms  and  I  had  practi¬ 
cally  nothing  to  get  ready.  Bapuji  was  shown  the 
famous  dandiya  ras*  of  Saurashtra  while  his  feet  were 
being  washed. 

The  Bengali  children  here  were  very  well  trained 
by  Kanubhai  in  this  dance  of  far-off  Saurashtra.  As 
the  couplet  in  adoration  of  Rama  and  Sita  was  repeated 

*A  group  circular  dance  where  dancers  hold  small  sticks  to 
beat  time. 


108 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


again  and  again,  the  dance  gathered  momentum,  with 
varying  movements  to  keep  time  with  the  beating  of 
the  sticks.  Bapuji  liked  this  programme  especially  as 
it  was  performed  while  his  feet  were  being  washed  and 
hence  no  time  had  to  be  allocated  for  it. 

.  .  .  asked  me  to  let  him  massage  Bapuji  today. 
I  replied,  “Yes,  you  may,  if  you  feel  like  doing  it.  I 
know  quite  well  how  happy  one  feels  at  having  an 
opportunity  to  serve  him.  I  can’t  deny  you  that  joy.” 
But  Bapuji  disapproved  of  the  idea. 

“It  is  my  nature,”  he  remarked  afterwards,  “to 
prefer  having  things  done  the  same  way  without  any 
change  in  routine.  I  didn’t  like  the  alteration  today. 
You  should  have  shown  .  .  .  where  his  duty  lay.  I 
want  to  cultivate  in  you  courage  enough  to  speak  out 
plainly ^how  you  feel  about  matters.  You  should 
have  told  him,  ‘Not  service  of  Bapuji’s  person  but  of 
the  village  where  you  are  posted  is  the  essential  thing 
for  you.  It  is  a  sin  if  you  fail  in  your  duty  even  in  the 
slightest  degree.  And  how  can  you  attend  on  Bapuji 
except  by  stealing  that  much  time  from  your  service  to 
the  village?  Had  he  not  come  here,  would  you  not 
have  spent  that  same  time  (given  for  the  massage)  in 
looking  after  the  village  ?’  When  you  get  courage  equal 
to  speaking  out  plainly  like  this,  I  shall  feel  that  what¬ 
ever  the  circumstances,  you  are  sure  to  cope.  No 
thought  of  offence  or  pleasing  others  should  deter  one 
from  uttering  the  truth.  Our  language  should  cer¬ 
tainly  be  confined  to  the  limits  of  civility.  If  we  change 
our  ways  to  please  others,  we  can  never  make  any  head¬ 
way  in  the  world.  You  know  what  I  mean  by  this 
advice.  A  child  generally  likes  to  eat  sweet  things, 
but  the  mother  has  to  be  firm  sometimes  and  give  him 
bitter  pills  to  cure  him  or  maintain  his  health.” 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


109 


After  massage  and  bath,  Bapuji  went  inside  and 
had  his  meal — very  little  puffed  rice,  milk  8  oz., 
khakharas ,  some  vegetable  and  sandesh.  Immediately 
afterwards,  he  came  out  again  to  bask  in  the  sun. 

Some  women  approached  Bapuji  at  3  p.m.  when 
he  was  spinning,  and  presented  him  with  self-spun 
Khadi.  Bapuji  told  them,  “In  just  the  same  way,  you 
should  spin  enough  to  make  Khaddar  for  your  own 
family.  You  should  mix  with  Muslim  sisters  and  make 
them  your  own,  and  cultivate  in  them,  too,  the  same 
sense  of  art  and  the  skill  of  hands  which  you 
have.  If  you  do  that,  they  will  say  that  Hindus  and 
Muslims  are  in  an  equal  number  here,  instead  of 
saying,  as  at  present,  that  Muslims  are  in  a.  majority. 
There  are  many  things  in  which  women  succeed, 
while  men  fail.” 

When  they  had  gone,  Bapuji  had  the  mud-packs 
and  dictated  some  letters.  Then  he  got  up  and  had 
one  ramafal  and  some  whey.*  After  prayers  he  wrote 
his  prayer  speech.  Shri  Reddiji  performed  a  Kathakalif 
dance.  Bapuji  listened  to  the  newspapers  being  read 
aloud  and  dropped  off  to  sleep  at  10.30  p.m. 

[Bapu,  Parakot,  17-l-547,  Friday] 

Parakot, 

17-l-’47 

Prayers  and  warm  water  as  per  routine.  Bapuji 
had  a  nap  of  10  minutes  and  then  drank  some  pine¬ 
apple  juice.  We  left  Ramdevpur  at  7.40  for  this  place. 
Both  the  groups  of  devotional  singers  from  Ramdevpur 

*  Watery  liquid  separated  from  milk  by  adding  lime 
juice  to  it. 

j-A  South  Indian  type 


110 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


and  Parakot  were  with  us.  The  number  of  dwellings 
that  had  been  destroyed  en  rpute  was  unusually  large. 
We  arrived  here  at  8.30  a.m.  After  washing  his  feet, 
I  prepared  for  his  massage  and  bath,  but  as  there  was 
no  sunshine,  they  were  delayed  and  Bapuji  did  some 
other  work.  So  it  was  11  a.m.  when  Bapuji  finished 
his  massage  and  bath  today.  He  had  his  usual  meal 
and  his  noon-day  rest  also  in  the  sunshine.  It  took 
me  an  hour  to  clean  Bapuji’s  feet,  wash  clothes  and 
the  utensils.  At  2  p.m.  Bapuji  got  up.  Had  cocoa- 
nut-water.  At  3.30  he  had  the  mud-packs.  At 
4  he  attended  a  ladies5  meeting,  where  he  exhorted 
them  to  spin,  to  mix  freely  with- Muslim  sisters  and 
keep  the  surroundings  of  their  houses  clean. 

Coming  back,  he  had  a  banana,  milk  and  prunes. 
Then  to  prayers,  and  from  there  to  a  Muslim  locality. 
Bapuji  returned  thoroughly  exhausted.  After  I 
washed  his  feet,  he  revised  his  prayer-discourse. 
Then  the  Bengali  lesson,  which  ended  at  9  p.m.  When 
I  was  pressing  his  legs,  Bapuji  told  me  in  a  very  loving 
parental  tone,  “Do  tell  me  whenever  you  feel  tired.  I 
was  deeply  moved  to  see  you  today  running  with  a 
full  bucket  in  hand  to  bring  water  for  my  bath.  I 
felt  I  was  heartless  and  exacting  too  much  work  from 
you.  So,  don’t  be  constrained.  Speak  out.  If  you 
happen  to  get  ill  here,  there  is  no  way  out.  Don’t 
have  any  doubts  about  this.  I  long  to  see  you  rest 
for  half  an  hour  in  the  afternoons.  But  I  am  both 
grieved  and  astonished  to  find  that  I  can’t  manage  to 
provide  even  that  little  half  an  hour  in  which  you 
should  rest.  I  can  easily  do  so  if  you  help  me.  I 
don’t  let  you  have  a  minute’s  rest.  Though  I  like 
the  idea  of  constant  work,  it  shouldn’t  be  an  unbea- 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL  111 

rable  burden  to  you.  I  have  no  objection  if  you  can 
bear  the  load.” 

“Now,  please,  don’t  worry  about  me!”  I  re¬ 
assured  him.  “I  have  a  rare  opportunity  to  learn  from 
you,  you  know!” 

With  endearing  words  like  these,  Bapuji  went  off 
to  sleep;  it  was  11  p.m.  before  my  work  for  the  day 
ended,  and  I  too  could  retire. 

Bapuji’s  conversation  was  filled  with  affection 
greater  than  any  mother  could  feel.  What  a  deep  loving 
insight  into  my  needs!  And  that  in  the  midst  of  all 
his  worries!  How  deeply  was  he  moved  to  see  me 
fetch  a  bucket  for  him!  Which  male  shows  motherly 
care  and  love  such  as  he  does?  But  Bapuji  has  often 
told  me  that  he  wants  to  cultivate  and  present  to  the 
world  an  ideal  of  the  perfect  man  who  is  a  perfect 
mother  as  well,  like  the  many  ideals  he  has  given  us 
of  truth,  non-violence,  non-possession,  equal  treatment 
to  all  castes,  etc.  “Our  sublime  culture  can  last  for 
ever,”  he  says,  “only  if  our  men  have  the  same  loving 
eye  for  all  women,  as  a  mother  has  for  her  child.” 

And  oh,  joy!  Iam  actually  having  that  experience! 
It  is  I  who  am  that  beloved  child  of  Mother  Bapu! 
I  am  immensely  happy  at  my  rare  good  fortune. 

[Bapu,  Badalkot,  18-l-’47,  Saturday] 

Badalkot, 
18-l-’47,  Saturday 

Bapuji  got  up  at  3-15  a.m.  Waking  me  up  he 
said,  “I  had  such  sound  sleep.  Hadn’t  to  get  up  even 
once!  I  am  so  glad!” 

After  prayers  Bapuji  wrote  his  discourse,  aiid  spent 
the  rest  of  the  time  in  talks  with  .  .  .  and  .  .  .  :  he 


112 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


relaxed  only  for  10  minutes.  At  7-35  a.m.  we  started 
from  Parakot.  Halted  on  the  way  at  a  Muslim  home 
where  he  saluted  all  the  members  of  the  family.  Our 
daily  routine  was  carried  out  as  usual.  He  had  his 
meal  at  10  a.m.  after  massage  and  bath.  He  had  the 
usual  khakharas ,  vegetable  and  milk. 

I  was  free  from  household  work  at  2  p.m.  Gave 
him  the  mud-packs  at  2.30.,  pressed  his  legs  and 
rested  for  15  minutes.  At  3  p.m.  there  was  a  ladies’ 
meeting  which  was  very  well  attended. 

He  took  only  milk  and  one  banana  in  the  evening. 
Went  to  sleep  at  nearly  10  p.m.  The  improvement 
in  the  big  toe  of  his  right  foot  continues.  Taking 
all  factors  into  consideration,  he  keeps  fairly  good 
health,  though  he  has  lessened  his  hours  of  sleep,  takes 
a  very  sparing  diet,  and  overtaxes  himself.  The  cold 
here  is  almost  unbearable.  It  is  quite  clear  that  the 
fountain  from  whom  springs  this  strength  is  none  else 
but  God  Himself! 

Atakora,  1 9- 1  -’47 

He  woke  up  at  3-30  a.m.  as  is  now  usual.  Then 
he  brushed  his  teeth  and  attended  prayers.  I  could 
not  heat  the  water  for  his  bath  at  the  usual  time;  this 
delayed  his  fruit-juice  ritual.  In  the  evening  I  take 
the  wood  for  kindling  indoors  to  save  it  from 
getting  wet  in  the  early  morning  dew.  But  I  forgot 
to  do  so  last  evening  and  the  wood  was  wet  and  could 
not  be  ignited  easily.  So,  I  tore  a  long  strip  from  my 
worn-out  sari ,  wound  it  to  make  a  wick  and  dipped 
it  into  the  kerosene  oil  in  the  lantern.  I  did  not 
know  that  Bapuji  was  behind  me,  observing  everything. 
As  soon  as  I  took  out  a  match  from  a  box  to  light  the 
wick,  Bapuji  intervened  and  said, “Just  show  me  that 
wick,  please!”  I  gave  it  to  him. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


113 


Bapuji  unwound  it  and  said,  “Wash  off  the  oil 
and  dry  it  in  the  sun.  I  am  sorry  for  the  waste  of  so 
much  kerosene.  But  I  had  to  choose  between  two  evils. 
If  I  save  the  oil,  I  lose  the  lace  and  vice  versa.  Between 
the  two,  the  advantage  definitely  lies  in  saving  the 
lace.  Can  anybody  ever  use  such  a  long  strip  as  a 
wick?  You  know  how  close-fisted  I  am,  specially  as 
I  am  a  Bania*  by  birth.  What  harm  if  the  water  is 
heated  a  little  later  ?  What  a  large  quantity  of  oil  has 
been  sucked  up  by  the  wick!  And  that  long  strip  too 
would  have  turned  to  ashes  if  I  hadn’t  chanced  to 
see  it  in  the  nick  of  time!” 

“Now,  now!”  I  remonstrated,  “isn’t  it  too  much 
fuss  over  a  strip  of  cloth?” 

“Indeed!”  retorted  Bapuji.  “ You  have  a  liberal 
father.  I  haven’t  one  to  provide  me  with  things! 
There’s  always  a  serious  lesson  even  in  my  jests.  It’s 
enough  for  you  if  you  can  catch  that .” 

I  washed  off  the  smell  of  that  ‘lace’.  But  even 
before  it  was  dry  there  were  2  or  3  inquiries  from  him 
concerning  it.  The  incident  ended  only  when  it  was 
quite  dry  and  actually  used  as  a  lace  for  my 
surwar. 

Then  Bapuji  attended  to  the  post  and  I  to  my 
own  work.  Today  he  told  me  to  carry  all  my  things 
myself  as  a  bottle  of  yeast  sent  ahead  had  been 
broken  yesterday.  At  7-35  we  left  Badalkot. 

The  track  was  exceptionally  bad  today.  Sardar 
Jivansinha  slipped  and  fell  down  twice.  With  great 
difficulty  could  we  both  —  Bapu  and  myself— walk 
abreast.  Sometimes  he  had  to  let  go  of  me  and  rely 
for  support  on  his  wooden  stick  only,  dhen  again, 


*A  merchant  community  known  for  its  thrift 

L-8 


114 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


though  the  route  was  swept  clean  by  the  workers  here, 
some  Muslim  boys  had  deliberately  soiled  it  at  night. 
One  or  two  workers  had  actually  seen  them  doing  so. 
As  I  was  a  little  behind,  I  didn’t  know  that  Bapuji 
himself  was  removing  the  lumps  of  excreta  etc.  by 
means  of  leaves.  But  my  sight  was  arrested  at  the  sud¬ 
den  halt  of  the  entire  group.  (The  track  was  so 
narrow  that  we  could  pass  only  single  file).  When  I 
came  to  know  the  reason,  I  was  nettled.  “Why  do 
you  put  me  to  shame?”  I  questioned  Bapuji  sharply, 
“Couldn’t  you  have  asked  me  to  clean  it  instead  of 
doing  it  yourself?” 

But  Bapuji  as  usual  laughed  and  replied,  “Do 
you  know  how  happy  I  feel  when  I  get  a  chance  to 
do  such  things?  You  wouldn’t  have  been  put  out 
if  you  knew.” 

The  villagers  too  irritated  me,  for  they  were  simp¬ 
ly  looking  on,  doing  nothing.  ‘Stupid  boors!’  I 
could  not  help  thinking;  ‘they  simply  stand  and  stare 
like  lifeless  statues  when  the  world-honoured  Bapuji 
stoops  down  to  clear  the  track  of  such  rubbish !  I  won¬ 
der  why  they  are  not  ashamed  of  their  conduct!’ 

But  Bapuji  soothed  me.  “You  will  see”  he  said, 
“that  from  tomorrow  I  shall  not  have  to  clean  dirty 
tracks  myself.  This  will  teach  them  a  lesson  that  the 
work  is  neither  too  low  nor  too  dirty  for  them.  But  it 
will  hurt  me  if  they  do  the  work  simply  for  my  sake.” 

“What  will  you  do,”  I  queried,  “if  they  do  it 
only  tomorrow  in  your  presence  and  never  again?” 

“I’ll  send  you  to  inspect  it,”  Bapuji  had  a  ready 
answer,  “and  if  we  find  that  the  route  is  again  dirty, 

I  will  go  back  to  clean  it  myself.  It’s  my  job  to  clean 
anything  where  dirt  settles.” 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


115 


Is  it  not  superfluous  to  show  at  length  how  per¬ 
fectly  true  this  last  statement  of  Bapuji’s  is?  It  has 
been  undoubtedly  his  occupation  as  well  as  pre¬ 
occupation  to  remove  dirt  wherever  he  finds  it,  begin¬ 
ning  from  actual  dirt  in  small  things  to  that  in  big 
important  matters  like  life,  business,  politics,  reli¬ 
gion  etc.  And  verily  he  has  purified  us  in  many  ways. 
I  for  one  have  been  observing  it  all  along.  And  the 
beauty  of  it  is  that  those  very  things  which  we  dismiss 
as  trifles  or  of  little  account,  he  proves  as  especially 
important  or  useful.  Then  we  realize  that  it  is  these 
little  things  that  matter  most  in  living  our  lives  in  the 
right  way. 

On  the  way  we  came  across  a  madresa *  where  the 
classes  were  held  in  the  open  air.  The  foot-path  there 
was  so  narrow  that  Col.  Jivansinhaji  slipped  and 
fell.  He  has  a  physique  well-trained  and  inured  to 
the  mountains;  and  he  was  a  regular  soldier  in  addi¬ 
tion.  When  such  a  man  as  he  loses  his  balance,  one 
can  easily  imagine  how  dangerous  the  track  could 
be  for  Bapuji.  He  was  highly  amused  to  find  Col. 
Jivansinhaji  slipping,  and  remarked,  “If  the  salt 
loseth  its  savour  wherewith  shall  it  be  salted?” 

Our  appearance  alarmed  the  boys  and  girls  of 
the  madresa  and  they  ran  away  helter-skelter.  Bapuji 
tried  to  greet  them  but  nobody  responded.  Abdulla 
Saheb  asked  them  to  continue  their  work  undisturb¬ 
ed.  This  reminded  me  of  Narasinha  Bhagat’s  lines 
wherein  he  says  that  a  man  gets  exactly  what  he  is 
destined  to  get  at  the  time  appointed  for  it. 

‘How  unlucky  these  people  are!’  I  thought; 


*An  Islamic  School 


116 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


c  it’s  uncommon  good  luck  to  have  a  glimpse  of  such  a 
man  as  Bapuji;  and  here  he  comes  of  his  own  accord 
and  presents  himself  before  them;  but  alas!  they  have 
eyes  but  see  not!  Such  are  the  strange  ways  of  Fate!’ 

Atakor  may  be  only  about  2  miles  away;  but  it 
took  us  an  hour  to  get  here. 

I  began  my  daily  routine  after  washing  Bapuji’s 
feet  on  arrival.  As  it  was  cloudy,  the  massage  and 
bath  had  to  be  delayed.  Bapuji  did  some  other  work 
instead.  He  shaved  himself  during  the  massage;  so 
these  two  things  were  done  simultaneously. 

In  the  evening  we  visited  the  home  of  a  very  old 
man.  He  was  both  deaf  and  infirm,  but  he  stood  up 
to  receive  Bapuji,  who  gave  the  old  man  a  loving 
tap  on  his  cheek.  His  old  and  feeble  wife  also  came 
out  just  then.  She  gave  her  husband  a  garland  of 
camphor  and  kept  one  for  herself  Both  of  them  then 
garlanded  Bapuji.  The  old  dame  was  visibly  trembling. 
She  clutched  Bapuji’s  hands  and  reverently  passed 
them  over  her  body  and  felt  herself  thus  purified. 
She  had  kept  with  herself  two  cocoanuts,  especially 
sweet,  to  give  them  to  Bapuji.  She  did  so  and  pressed 
him  to  accept  the  cocoanuts  and  drink  their  water. 
I  was  inevitably  taken  back  to  the  episode  of  Rama 
meeting  the  old  dame  Shabari.  There  was  a  similar 
green  jungle  all  around  us,  and  as  Rama  ate  those 
berries  of  Shabari,  Bapuji  also  lovingly  accepted  the 
cocoanuts. 

And  what  a  wonder !  The  first  thing  that  met  my 
eyes,  as  I  opened  the  Ramayana  today  for  my  daily 
religious  practice,  were  the  following  well-known 
lines: 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


117 


When  Rama  came, 

The  loving  dame 
Gave  tasted  fruits 
And  sweetest  roots 
And  Rama  withal 
Enjoyed  them  all; 

This  aged  host 
He  loved  the  most. 

And  when  later  on  I  gave  to  Bapuji  the  water 
of  those  two  cocoanuts  kept  for  him  by  the  aged 
couple,  that  scene  from  the  Ramayana  again  passed 
before  my  eyes.  It  is-Bapuji’s  rule  to  take  nothing  after 
his  evening  meal,  but  he  went  out  of  his  way,  drank 
the  water  of  one  cocoanut  himself  and  made  me,  too, 
gulp  down  of  the  second.  Joy  suffused  his  face  when  he 
did  so.  On  our  return  he  remarked,  “It’s  always  a  joy 
to  meet  people  of  the  same  age.  Both  of  them  must  be 
about  eighty,  perhaps  more.” 

Bapuji  could  not  spin  in  the  afternoon  as  he 
was  engaged  in  serious  deliberations.  He  is  spinning 
now  (it  is  7-30  p.m.).  Shailenbhai  is  reading  the 
papers  to  him,  and  I  am  writing  my  diary. 

JV.B.  After  spinning  he  listened  to  my  diary  at 
9-30  p.m.  Off  to  sleep  after  signing  it. 

Shirandi, 

20-l-’47 

Bapuji  woke  up  late  at  5-15  a.m.  today.  After 
prayers  he  drank  warm  water  with  honey.  Then 
giving  him  fruit-juice  and  packing  up  the  luggage, 
I  went  to  examine  our  track  of  yesterday;  it  was  as 
dirty  as  before.  Instead  of  going  back  to  report  to 


118 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


Bapuji,  however,  I  began  to  clean  it  myself.  The 
work  was  soon  finished  in  15  minutes  as  the  vil¬ 
lage  people  had  joined  me  in  the  work.  Then  they  told 
me,  “Please  don’t  come  here  tomorrow.  We  shall  clean 
it  ourselves.” 

Referring  to  it,  Bapuji  remarked  at  the  end  of 
his  silence,  “So  you  have  robbed  me  of  a  good  deed 
and  its  virtue!  I  wanted  to  clean  it  myself.  It’s  all 
right,  however.  Two  things  have  been  accomplished 
now.  In  the  first  place,  cleanliness  will  be  kept  up 
henceforth;  and  then,  if  they  keep  their  word,  the 
people  here  will  learn  to  be  truthful- — a  thing  they 
are  unaccustomed  to.  You  know,  people  in  Kathia- 
wad  too  have  this  dirty  habit  of  soiling  streets.  Never 
be  under  the  delusion  that  the  nasty  habit  of 
spitting  and  committing  nuisance  anywhere  and 
everywhere  prevails  only  here.  Many  people  in 
India  are  affected  with  this  dirty  habit,  and  hence  the 
places  are  filthy  in  Kathiawad  specially.  From 
childhood,  therefore,  I  used  to  cherish  the  desire  to 
reform  our  people,  but  as  fate  would  have  it,  I  could 
not  stay  long  in  Kathiawad;  your  anger  against 
me  was  quite  misplaced;  regarding  cleanliness,  I  ob¬ 
serve  for  myself,  the  same  rule  of  self-help  which 
obtains  in  eating;  I  cannot  fill  my  stomach  unless  I 
eat  the  food  myself,  and  not  if  somebody  eats  it  on 
my  behalf.  So  I  am  really  exceedingly  happy  in 
cleaning  anything  myself.” 

Bapuji  today  went  ahead  of  me  to  Shirandi,  as 
Amtussalaambahen  was  on  a  fast  there  for  some  days 
past.  Shirandi  is  her  field  of  service  and  it  was  whis¬ 
pered  that  some  Muslim  brothers  had  hidden  arms 
in  the  village.  That  her  own  brothers  of  the  same 
Faith  should  do  such  a  detestable  thing  shocked  her. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


119 


She  comes  of  a  highly  noble  and  cultured  Muslim 
family  and  is  more  than  a  daughter  to  Bapuji.  She 
has  made  in  the  past  a  signal  contribution  to  the 
work  of  Hindu-Muslim  unity  and  continues  to  do  so. 
Slim  and  weak  in  appearance,  and  aged  about  fifty, 
she  is  wearing  herself  out  in  the  work.  She  went  on  a 
fast  in  Noakhali  and  emerged  from  her  death-bed 
as  it  were. 

Nirmalda  and  I  alone  were  left  behind  and  there 
was  no  one  else  to  share  with  us  the  burden  of  the 
luggage.  So  we  found  it  really  difficult  to  carry  it 
with  us.  But  Bapuji  halted  at  one  or  two  Muslim 
brothers’  houses  and  we  could  catch  up  with  him. 

Amtussalaam  bahen  has  grown  very  very  weak. 
Bapuji  asked  her  to  have  her  bed  brought  outside 
and  have  a  sunbath. 

Bapuji  carried  on  negotiations  with  Muslim 
brothers  the  whole  day  through  to  end  the  fast. 

Amtussalaambahen  desires  to  listen  to  the  Gita 
or  the  Koran  or  a  hymn  all  through  her  waking  hours ; 
and  they  read  them  to  her  in  turn. 

At  long  last,  the  Muslim  brothers  agreed  on  the 
terms  of  a  compromise  which  was  drafted  late  at 
9  p.m.  and  the  fast  was  thus  concluded.  After  a  prayer 
of  thanksgiving  to  God  for  the  happy  end  of  the  fast, 
Amtussalaambahen  took  a  glass  of  sweet  lemon  juice 
from  Bapuji’s  hands  and  pieces  of  the  sandesh  were 
given  to  all  present  in  the  celebration.  The  whole 
atmosphere  was  transformed  into  one  of  joy  and 
every  one  felt  at  ease. 

Bapuji  lay  down  to  sleep  as  late  as  at  11  p.m. 
He  is  thoroughly  done  up  from  talking  all  day. 


120 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


Kethuri, 
2 1  - 1  -’47 

Morning  prayers  as  usual,  but  conducted  by 
Sushilabahen.  I  gave  Bapuji  his  warm  water  and  left 
him,  in  order  to  pack  the  luggage. 

It  was  7  a.m.  by  then.  Bapuji  got  up,  approach¬ 
ed  Amtussalaambahen  and  bid  her  adieu  before 
proceeding  onwards.  Some  ladies  put  vermilion  marks 
on  Bapuji’s  forehead,  bowed  down  to  him  and  left. 
Then  we  started. 

As  Ramachandraji  too,  left  us  today,  I  was  hard 
hit.  He  is  taken  ill.  Bapuji  remarked,  “The  man 
came  to  me  suddenly.  Was  a  soldier  formerly.  Then 
joined  the  I.N.A.;  and  finally  told  me  that  he  wanted 
to  spend  all  his  remaining  life  in  serving  me;  but  I 
suspect  foul  play  there.  But  what  has  that  to  do  with 
me?  My  whole  life  has  been  moulded  that  way.” 
Then  in  this  context  he  was  reminded  of  a  story  from 
the  Mahabharata.  “After  the  Great  War,”  he  said, 
“all  the  five  Pandavas  and  Draupadi  left  their  king¬ 
dom  to  go  to  a  forest;  from  there  they  proceeded  to 
ascend  to  the  heavens.  All  those  who  accompanied 
Yudhishthira  fell  off,  one  by  one.  Even  Draupadi 
could  not  keep  up.  Only  a  dog  was  left  with  him.  In 
the  same  way,  during  the  progress  of  this  sacri¬ 
fice,  one  after  another  is  dropping  off.  But  I  like  it. 
And  is  it  possible  that  you  alone  may  be  with  me 
to  the  end?  This  story  can  be  interpreted  in  a  way 
that  teaches  us  an  excellent  lesson.  A  dog  is  an  insigni¬ 
ficant  animal,  of  no  count  at  all.  What  merit  then 
must  it  have  earned  that  it  could  survive,  when  the 
five  stalwarts  fell  dead?  The  reason  is  its  loyalty  and 
devotion.  So  there  is  no  reason  to  assume  that  indi¬ 
viduals  considered  ‘great5  never  sin  but  only  those  of 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


121 


no  account  do.  The  so-called  ‘just  ordinary'  are  some¬ 
times  really  ahead  of  cthe  great  and  big’.5 5 

In  the  evening  a  Muslim  brother,  Hunarbhai, 
came  up  to  stay  with  us.  He  has  been  sent  by  Sundar- 
lalji.  Bapuji  suggested  that  he  should  learn  to  be 
self-reliant  for  all  his  needs  including  cooking.  The 
first  work  he  was  asked  to  do  was  to  clean  the 
latrine.  I  was  really  moved  to  pity  for  him.  And 
Bapuji  puts  every  newcomer  to  a  difficult  test.  But 
I  knew  I  should  not  help  him  in  any  way.  If  ever  I 
showed  him  the  slightest  sympathy,  and  Bapuji  came 
to  know  of  it,  I  would  be  severely  taken  to  task.  So 
I  had  to  be  hard  on  myself  and  leave  him,  though 
my  heart  was  filled  with  pity.  If  I  but  lingered  to  have 
a  talk  with  him,  I  feared,  my  mind  might  relent  and 
I  might  begin  helping  him  almost  unawares.  'Let 
me  be  off,5  I  thought,  ‘there's  danger  in  watching 
him.’ 

I  related  all  my  inner  struggles  to  Bapuji.  “I 
won’t  call  it  sympathy  at  all,”  he  remarked,  “it  was 
in  fact  want  of  it.  My  sympathy  is  different.  There 
are  some  actions  which,  woven  into  a  man’s  pattern 
of  life  make  for  progress.  They  are  thus  both  useful 
and  necessary  to  him,  though  they  may  be  hard  to 
learn  at  first.  To  cripple  a  man  doing  them  by  lend¬ 
ing  a  helping  hand  is  not  ‘sympathy’  but  cruelty. 
Suppose  a  patient  has  a  serious  disease  in  the  stomach 
and  an  operation  is  necessary.  If  a  surgeon  then  says, 
‘The  poor  man  will  bleed  and  suffer,  if  I  use  my 
knife,’  he  is  a  worthless  doctor  even  though  he  may 
be  a  F.R.C.S.That  operation  has  got  to  be  performed 
and  the  diseased  part  taken  out.  So  the  ‘pity’  that 
moved  you  wasn’t  pity  at  all.  You  did  a  wise  thing 


122 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


in  not  going  to  his  aid.  I  don’t  know  what  I  would 
have  done  otherwise.” 

What  a  subtlety  in  Bapuji’s  philosophy  and  deeds! 
I  doubt  if  any  professor  would  have  explained  in  such 
detail  this  to  me  even  if  I  had  gone  to  a  college. 

The  usual  food  was  taken  in  his  morning  meal. 
In  the  evening,  after  prayers,  he  took  only  condensed 
cocoanut  oil  and  whey.  The  prayer-speech  referred 
to  the  fast  of  Amtussalaambahen.  The  Muslim  men 
who  were  present  at  first  insisted  that  the  report  of  that 
speech  should  not  go  to  the  press.  But  Bapuji  suc¬ 
ceeded  in  making  them  agree  to  its  publication  on 
the  ground  that  what  was  known  to  all  here  should 
not  be  withheld  from  the  press.  There  was  definitely 
a  motive  behind  this  move  for  hush-hush.  But 
Bapuji  was  not  a  man  to  fall  in  with  other  people’s 
wishes.  So,  the  report  was  finally  published. 

At  10  p.m.  he  went  to  sleep  after  listening  to  the 
newspapers.  I  was  very  busy  with  work  the  whole 
day.  All  our  bed-sheets  were  added  to  the  heap  of 
washing  I  had  to  do  today.  The  cotton  from  Bapuji’s 
pillow  was  tajcen  out,  dried  in  the  sun  and  the  pillow 
was  refilled  and  sewn.  I  also  dusted  and  cleaned  all 
the  household  articles  and  did  much  writing  work. 
So  when  I  wrote  a  letter  home  late  at  night,  I  was 
very  drowsy  and  almost  sleeping,  and  I  don’t  know 
when  sleep  completely  overpowered  me.  When  I 
woke  up  in  the  morning,  I  found  everything  —  pen, 
paper,  etc.,  —  lying  scattered  on  the  ground.  But  to¬ 
night  Bapuji  too  was  much  tired  and  sound  asleep 
before  I  was  off.  That  saved  me  from  his  rebuke.  But 
the  next  morning  when  he  got  up  he  saw  the  dis¬ 
order  in  the  room  and  asked  me  the  reason  for  it.  I 
told  him  all  I  had  done.  “Don’t  I  say,”  he  commented, 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


123 


4£that  there’s  nobody  on  earth  who  can  cheat  me? 
I  have  expressly  forbidden  you  to  keep  awake  after  I 
get  to  sleep;  and  still  you  stealthily  attempted  to  do  so 
and  finish  the  work.  But  God  filled  your  eyes  with 
sleep.  What  does  that  signify?  That’s  why  I  firmly 
believe  that  even  murder  will  be  out.  Now  beware 
from  this  example  and  don’t  do  it  again.” 

This  is  a  small  thing  of  course;  but  one  has  but  to 
conclude  therefrom  that  the  man  who  tries  to  get  the 
better  of  Bapuji  ends  in  being  subjugated  himself. 

Paniyala, 

22- 1  -’47 

Today  is  the  monthly  anniversary  of  the  day  of 
revered  grandma’s  demise.  Bapuji,  therefore,  got  up 
early  and  woke  me  up  also.  After  brushing  his  teeth, 
prayers  were  said  and  then  the  entire  Bhagavad- 
gita  was  recited  as  was  customary  on  this  day.  I  was 
alone  for  this  last  item.  Bapuji  was  too  tired,  and  has 
been  so  since  yesterday. 

I  heated  water  after  the  prayers  but  found  that 
the  bottle  of  honey  was  missing.  Somebody  seems  to 
have  pilfered  it.  I  am  certain  that  I  had  kept  ready 
overnight  everything  needed  today,  but  found  in  the 
morning  that  the  bottle  had  taken  itself  wings!  But 
fortunately  Anudidi  had  with  her  a  very  superior 
quality  of  gur.  I  poured  hot  water  over  a  lump  of  it 
and  squeezed  a  lemon  too.  Bapuji  took  that  drink. 
“No  harm!”  he  remarked,  “what  will  poor  people 
do  with  it  except  to  feed  themselves?  We  can  manage 
quite  as  well  with  gur.  So  don’t  make  a  fuss  to  find  out 
who  took  the  bottle  away.” 

After  prayers,  Bapuji  began  revising  some  papers 
and  fell  asleep  with  the  papers  in  hand.  He  was  sure 


124 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


to  wake  up  if  I  tried  to  get  them  away  from  his 
tight  grip.  So  I  did  not  and  was  late  in  packing  up  the 
last  bundle.  I  had  therefore  still  to  complete  the  final 
arrangements  for  our  start,  though  the  singers  had  al¬ 
ready  arrived  and  a  big  crowd  had  been  waiting  for 
the  last  5  minutes. 

“The  people  have  been  waiting,”  Bapuji  re¬ 
minded  me  sharply.  “This  is  like  stealing  5  minutes 
from  500  people.  I  can’t  bear  it.  I  am  going.  You  may 
follow.  But  don’t  suffer  from  the  delusion  from  this 
instance,  that  you  can  go  on  being  late;  [and  that  I 
shall  go  ahead,  and  you  can  catch  up  with  me  later. 
This  time  you  are  absolved,  because  you  are  still  a 
young  girl  and  I  am  an  old  man.  All  the  same  it  is  a 
crime.  From  now  on  you  must  be  punctual  to  the 
second.  If  I  made  an  appointment  with  a  person  to 
start  at  7,  it  would  prick  me  like  a  thorn  if  I  am  late 
by  2  seconds.  It  was  your  duty  to  wake  me  up.  Had 
you  taken  away  the  papers  even  if  it  meant  waking  me 
from  slumber,  it  would  have  been  a  good  deed  and 
a  creditable  discharge  of  duty  on  your  part.” 

The  rest  of  the  work  followed  the  pattern  of  the 
daily  routine.  I  had  been  running  a  temperature  since 
the  morning.  At  1 1  a.m.  it  rose  to  103°,  but  I  kept  the 
news  from  Bapuji,  for  then  he  would  definitely  make 
me  spread  out  my  bed  and  lie  down.  At  about  2  p.m. 
it  mounted  to  104°;  and  I  had  to  lie  down  willy-nilly; 
but  at  4  p.m.  it  came  down  to  normal.  Then  I  gave 
the  mud-packs  to  Bapuji.  I  was  so  glad  I  could  get 
back  into  harness  with  only  two  hours  of  rest !  Lying 
stretched  out  with  the  mud-packs  on,  Bapuji  went 
through  my  diary  and  signed  it. 

It  rained  rather  heavily  during  the  evening  pray¬ 
ers.  I  wrapped  a  cotton  sheet  around  Bapu,  but  both  he 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


125 


and  I  were  thoroughly  drenched  in  a  few  minutes. 
Not  a  single  person  from  the  audience  got 
up  to  leave.  Muslim  brothers  had  gathered  in  large 
numbers.  An  old  long- forgotten  Dhuna  recurred  to  my 
mmd  for  the  mass  singing  after  the  hymn.  That 
couplet  was  well  received  by  the  people  who  beat 
time  to  it  by  clapping  their  hands.  This  is  it: 

O  Rama!  Sita-Rama!  O  Raghu-race-born ! 

O  Saviour  of  sinners,  the  Help  of  the  lorn! 

Allah  and  God  are  but  names  given  Thee, 

Grant  us  intelligence,  unclouded  and  free. 

Though  I  sang  the  couplet  in  a  fit  of  enthu¬ 
siasm,  I  wondered  how  Bapuji  would  react  to  my 
impudence  in  singing  it  without  his  prior  sanction. 

But  in  the  discourse  which  followed,  Bapuji  refer¬ 
red  to  it  in  glowing  terms.  There  was  no  end  to  my 
joy  and  satisfaction  at  his  praise. 

On  our  return  from  prayers,  Bapuji  spoke  of  it 
again,  “I  was  charmed  with  the  Dhuna  you  chose  to¬ 
day.  The  people  also  appreciated  it.  Whence  did  you 
pick  it  up?  Or  did  you  compose  it  yourself?” 

I  gave  him  its  history.  There  Was  a  mandap*  which 
still  stands  in  the  Sudama  Temple  in  Porbandar; 
there,  a  Brahmana  preceptor  used  to  tell  his  Katha\ 
to  the  people.  When  the  Katha  was  over  for  the  night, 
this  Brahmana  preceptor  usually  began  a  Dhuna  in 
which  members  of  all  communities  could  take  part. 
I  used  to  accompany  mummy,  when  I  was  about  8  or 
10,  and  listen  to  his  simple  edifying  stories.  There, 

*A  big  hall 

|A  religious  story  interspersed  with  songs.  The  rhythm  was 
beaten  out  on  an  empty  brass  jar. 


126 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


I 


I  had  heard  this  Dhuna  once.  Here,  of  course,  it  was  a 
surprise  to  me,  when  it  entered  my  mind. 

“God  himself  breathed  it  into  your  mind,”  replied 
Bapuji  evidently  pleased.  “How  wonderful  are  His 
ways  of  helping  me  in  this  sacrifice !  My  faith  in  His 
divine  power  grows  from  strength  to  strength.  The 
more  I  find  myself  opposed  in  my  mission,  the  more 
determined  I  get  in  my  resolve  to  fulfil  it.  God  is  with 
me.  See  how  very  much  He  helps  me.  Today’s 
Ramadhuna  is  a  fresh  proof  of  it.” 

“Yes,”  he  continued,  “that  type  of  (fraternity) 
was  really  what  prevailed  in  the  past  and  held  us. 
together.  Sing  this  Dhuna  daily  from  now  on.  It 
seems  as  if  God  suggested  this  Dhuna  to  you  just 
at  the  right  time  when  the  situation  is  so  trying.. 
Fresh  life  was  infused  in  the  prayers,  when  the 
spirit  was  lagging.  Sometimes  when  going  with 
parents  to  attend  a  mass  singing  of  prayers  etc.  one 
absorbs  that  ‘something’  in  childhood  which  plays  a 
significant  part  in  moulding  him  all  his  life  through.. 
I,  too,  used  to  go  to  the  Ramji  Temple  in  Porbandar* 
and  enjoyed  it.  But  all  that  is  now  becoming  a  thing 
of  the  past.  So,  in  Sudamaji’s  temple  and  by  a  Brah- 
mana  to  boot,  Allah’s  name  was  taken  in  the  most 
natural  unaffected  manner!  This  dirtv  mist  of  com- 
munal  hatred  has  been  gathering  for  the  last  5  or  6 
years  only.”  On  his  return  from  the  evening  walk  he 
had  some  whey  and  some  condensed  cocoanut  oil. 
Then  after  spinning  and  listening  to  the  papers  he  was 
off  to  sleep  at  9-30  p.m.  As  I  had  not  spun  during  the 
day,  I  did  it  and  slept  at  10  p.m. 


*  Gandhiji’s  birth-place  in  Saurashtra 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


127 


As  I  was  quite  soaked  with  rain  at  the  prayer 
meeting  I  am  again  running  a  temperature,  but 
now  that  it  is  time  to  go  to  bed,  it  doesn’t  matter. 

Dalta, 

23-1  -547 

Bapuji  slept  soundly  throughout  the  night.  He 
woke  up  only  when  Sardar  Jivansinhaji  came  and 
roused  him.  Prayers  as  usual.  When  he  was  sipping 
his  hot  water,  lie  talked  to  ...  ,  first  about  his  acti¬ 
vities  and  then  about  his  children.  In  a  very  en¬ 
lightening  and  impressive  talk  worth  recounting,  he 
dwelt  upon  the  duties  and  responsibilities  of  parents 
and  how  they  should  discharge  them  at  present: 

“  .  .  .is  quite  a  stranger  to  truth.  Many  com¬ 
plaints  about  him  have  reached  me.  Parents  are  to 
blame,  I  think,  if  their  children  turn  out  wild.  How 
is  it  that  none  of  your  many  children  has  learnt 
your  virtue?  Because  you  never  paid  any  attention 
to  any  of  them.  Parents  beget  children  in  profusion 
but  do  not  care  about  their  education,  good  habits 
and  manners.  That  is  how  our  people  have  made  a 
mess  of  our  land,  merely  to  satisfy  their  lust  for 
power  and  wealth.  Take  my  own  example:  At  the 
time  Harilal  was  born,  I  didn’t  pay  as  much  attention 
to  him  as  a  father  should.  Left  him  while  still  a  baby 
to  go  to  England.  And  you  know  the  result.  The  best 
thing  you  can  now  do  for  your  son’s  good  is  to  marry 
him  off.  .  .  .  would  have  lost  her  character,  had  she 
not  been  given  away  in  marriage. 

Bapuji  then  told  him  something  about  me.  “I 
have  never  said  a  word  to  Manu  or  what  .  .  .  told 
me  about  her  out  of  sheer  jealousy ;  and  I  am  never 
going  to  speak  to  her  about  it.” 


128 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


This  last  reference  to  me  upset  me.  I  wondered 
what  had  been  said  against  me  to  Bapuji,  since  I 
have  never  antagonized  anyone.  I  continued  to  brood 
over  these  matters  right  from  Paniyala  to  Dalta.  In 
my  grief  over  that  talk  between  Bapuji  and  .  .  .  , 
the  hymn  of  the  ‘The  Lonely  Pilgrim5  entirely  escaped 
my  mind.  We  generally  sing  it  on  our  daily  march. 

So,  when  we  came  here  and  I  was  washing  Bapu- 
ji’s  feet  in  moody  silence,  he  talked  to  me  in  a  gentle, 
loving  manner  and  said,  “You  weren’t  singing  in  your 
usual  joyous  way  during  the  march  today.  Speak  out. 
What’s  the  matter?  Are  you  worried?  Aren’t  you  quite 
well?”  I  replied  that  I  would  tell  him  all  about  it 
later  on. 

He  reverted  to  the  subject  when  I  was  attending 
him  during  his  bath  after  the  massage:  “If  you  feel 
like  it  now,  tell  me  what  ails  you.”  I  told  him  all 
that  had  been  passing  in  my  mind  since  the  morning 
and  added  that  I  was  pained  to  learn  that  I  was  the 
cause  of  their  sorrow. 

“Why  should  you  be  so  touchy?”  he  comforted 
me.  “Am  I  not  also  a  target  for  abuse  and  slander 
from  many  people?  Are  there  not  people  who  envy 
me?  But  if  I  go  on  paying  attention  to  other  people’s 
criticisms,  I  may  end  in  forgetting  to  listen  to  my 
own  conscience  and  go  stark  mad!  That’s  exactly 
why  I  didn’t  tell  you  what  .  .  .  had  said  to  me 
about  you.  I  didn’t  wish  to  say  anything  in  your  pre¬ 
sence  even  today.  But  you  were  quietly  absorbed  in 
your  work  and  there  was  nothing  private  in  my  talk 
with.  .  .  .  He  is  a  good-natured  man  and  a  recluse 
by  inclination.  I  scolded  him  severely  for  neglect¬ 
ing  his  children!  And  yet  didn’t  you  notice,  that  he 
uttered  not  a  word  in  reply?  That  is  exactly  why  I 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


129 

make  such  a  good  man  my  own.  You,  too,  should  try 
to  see  the  good  in  others  and  overlook  their  faults. 
-L/on’t  you  know  my  Guru — the  monkeys?*  If  ever  we 
knd  any  one  slandering  us,  we  should  dance  with 
joy.  You  know  the  hymn  which  says,  ‘Verily  the 
caviller  is  my  dear  brother’.” 

These  soothing  words  of  Bapuji  revived  my  flag¬ 
ging  spirits,  and  X  felt  convinced  that  life  would  not  be 
worth  living  if  one  became  depressed  by  such  trifles. 

“The  real  zest  in  life,”  he  concluded,  “lies  in  com¬ 
ing  unscathed  through  an  ordeal  and  through  a  hostile 
environment  created  by  backbiting  and  adverse  criti¬ 
cism.  Only  then  can  we  ascertain  the  strength  of 
our  faith  in  God,  and  know  definitely  whether  we  are 
true  followers  of  God  or  mere  humbugs.  Let  me 
remind  you  oi  that  excellent  psalm  you  sing: 

Be  not  down  with  a  sick  pale  cast, 

When  trouble’s  clouds  rush  thick  and  fast, 

Or  tires  with  his  heat  the  scorching  sun; 

Rest  not,  press  on,  till  the  goal  is  won. 

Though  the  whole  song  is  pithy  and  inspiring, 
this  stanza  is  the  best  antidote  for  your  present  mood 
of  depression.” 

Bapuji  took  a  long  time  for  his  bath  today,  as  he 
was  deeply  immersed  in  giving  me  this  uplifting  ad¬ 
vice.  Speech  flowed  from  his  lips  in  an  incessant 
stream.  I  knew  it  was  getting  very  late,  but  did  not 
like  to  interrupt  and  remind  him  of  it  and  spoil  the 

*This  is  a  reference  to  the  Chinese  toy  of  a  set  of  three  monkeys 
sitting  with  eyes,  ears  and  mouth  closed,  to  signify  refusal  to 
see,  hear  and  speak  evil.  Bapu  always  had  it  before  him  as  a 
constant  reminder. 


L-9 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


130 


trend  of  his  thoughts.  Every  word  that  he  utteied 
was  charged  with  wisdom. 

This  village  provides  a  few  more  comforts  than 
some  of  the  others  we  have  visited,  and  is  charm¬ 
ing  besides;  but  there  is  much  humidity  in  the  air, 
and  so  everything  is  damp.  The  chief  host  was  kind¬ 
ness  itself  to  me  when  I  took  my  meals.  Bapuji  did  his 
Bengali  lesson  as  usual.  Among  the  letters  received 
today  in  the  post  were  those  of  Sardardada,  Jawahar- 
lalji  and  Shuaib.  There  was  one  from  Birlaji  too.  To 
Sardar  Saheb  Bapuji  wrote  a  simple  little  note. 
Birlaji’ s  men  had  brought  some  oranges.  The  replies 
were  sent  through  them. 

For  his  midday  meal  Bapuji  ate  his  usual  food, 
but  in  the  evening  he  had  only  honey  and  wiiey. 
Much  of  his  time  today  was  spent  in  writing,  as  the 
post  was  heavy  and  all  the  letters  were  replied  to  by 
himself  personally.  Then  he  went  to  bed.  His  spinning 
came  to  120  rounds  today.  He  used  only  hand-carded 
slivers. 


Muriyam, 
24-l-’47,  Saturday 


Prayers  as  per  programme.  Much  oi  his  time 
was  later  wasted  in  looking  for  papers  of  his  draft 
resolution  on  Assam.  Nirmalda  too  joined  in  the 
search,  but  in  vain.  Perhaps  they  were  sent  to  Cal¬ 
cutta  along  with  the  other  papers  in  Nirmalda’s  file. 
Then  Bapu  listened  to  my  diary  and  signed  it.  When 
I  was  doubling  his  yarn,  and  he  was  doing  his  Bengali 
lesson,  he  dozed  off  for  15  minutes.  I  pressed  his  legs. 
When  I  finished,  it  was  time  to  start  on  our  march. 
We  arrived  here  at  8  a.m.,  as  Muriyam  is  only  two 
and  a  half  miles  from  Dalta. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


131 


We  are  staying  in  the  garden-house  of  a  very 
nice  Muslim  family  who  are  favourably  disposed  to 
us.  The  owner  of  the  house  is  Habibulla  Saheb  * 
Patwari.  Very  lovingly  did  the  Muslim  brothers  here 
embrace  Bapuji.  Maulvi  Saheb  provided  us  with  all 
the  help  we  needed.  He  took  me  to  the  ladies  of  the 
harem,  and  introduced  us  to  one  another  and  earnest¬ 
ly  urged  me  to  bring  Bapuji  to  meet  the  ladies  when  he 
could  spare  some  time  to  do  so.  Then,  after  finishing 
Bapuji’s  massage  and  bath,  I  got  down  to  my  daily 
routine.  When  Bapuji  emerged  from  his  bath,  I  took 
him  to  our  hostesses.  All  of  them  devoutly  saluted  Bapu¬ 
ji.  Some  of  them  felt  shy,  but  Bapuji  exhorted  them 
thus,  “I  am  old  enough  to  be  your  father.  No  lady, 
young  or  old,  observes  purdah  in  my  presence.  If  one 
desires  to  maintain  purdah,  it  must  be  done  in  the  right 
way  —  in  the  heart.  Take  off  thisfalse  purdah.  Tohave 
a  veil  to  cover  the  outer  crust  (the  body)  though  the 
inside  (the  mind)  is  filled  with  passion  is  nothing  but 
sin.” 

Habib  Saheb  translated  it  very  neatly  and  empha¬ 
sized  the  point  himself:  “Today  we  are  purified.  We 
are  sinners,  because  there  is  a  dark  stain  on  our  com¬ 
munity  for  the  murders  of  Hindus;  and  an  angel  from 
God  has  come  to  our  house  today.  How  can  we  observe 
purdah  when  we  have  this  rare  chance  to  get  purified 
by  a  glimpse  of  Bapu?” 

That  brought  out  the  ladies.  Bapuji  distributed 
little  pieces  of  sandesh  to  the  children. 

He  drew  the  attention  of  the  ladies  to  cleanliness, 
and  advised  them  thus:  “You  must  be  clean  within 
and  without.”  This  was,  literally,  the  first  time  when 
we  were  able  to  mingle  with  the  family  of  the  host 


132 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


almost  as  its  members.  Bapuji’s  patience  and  long 
suffering  seem  to  have  won  the  round  here! 

Bapuji  used  to  greet  all  the  Muslims  he  met  as 
brothers,  but  they  considered  him  their  enemy.  But, 
he  won  their  hearts  in  the  end  by  his  love,  tolerance 
and  forbearance. 

There  was  no  change  in  his  midday  meal,  except 
that  he  ate  only  one  khakhara  and  one  ramafala 
which  Habib  Saheb  had  brought  specially  for  him. 
Thereafter  he  lay  down  to  sleep.  I  rubbed  ghee  on  his 
legs,  took  my  bath  and  washed  our  clothes.  When 
Bapuji  woke  up  I  gave  him  some  cocoanut-water. 

He  was  quite  annoyed  to  find  that  I  had  not  yet 
taken  my  meal  though  it  was  1-30  p.m.  He  asked  me 
to  sit  down  in  front  of  him  and  eat  straightaway. 
There  was  no  alternative  but  to  obey  him  as  I  was 
at  fault.  After  eating,  I  gave  Bapuji  the  mud-packs. 
He  lay  down  to  have  them  and  then  dictated  to  me 
letters  to  Thakkarbapa,  Shardabahen,  Bulsaria  etc. 
Baba  (Satishbabu)  and  the  Magistrate  came  to  see 
him  while  we  were  occupied  with  this  work. 

Before  the  evening  prayers,  he  had  cocoanut 
water,  sandesh  from  goat-milk  and  a  banana. 

The  gathering  at  the  prayer-meeting  was  un¬ 
usually  large  today  and  they  all  responded  to  the 
Dhuna  with  zest  and  joy. 

Bapuji  later  remarked,  “The  prayer-meeting  was 
very  well  attended  today,  and  I  was  glad  that  both 
Hindus  and  Muslims  recited  your  Dhuna.  It  didn’t 
seem  to  be  a  put-up  show.  Habib  Saheb  appears  to 
have  contributed  substantially  to  the  healthy  (com¬ 
munal)  climate  prevalent  here.” 

People  came,  after  the  prayers,  in  an  incessant 
stream  to  have  a  glimpse  of  Bapuji.  This  went  on 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


133 


up  to  9-30  p.m.  Bapuji  now  is  very  tired.  He  was 
able  to  go  to  sleep  only  after  10-15  p.m, 

[Bapu,  25-1 -’47,  Hirapur,  Sunday] 

'  Hirapur, 

25-l-’47 

Bapuji’s  stomach  is  upset  and  I  too  am  feverish. 
But  we  prayed  as  usual.  Bapuji  pointed  out  to  me 
my  mispronunciation  of  a  verse  of  the  8th  canto 
of  the  Bhagavadgita. 

He  said  to  a  worker,  “Those  who  work  with  me 
as  volunteers  should  have  a  separate  kitchen  and 
should  also  cook  for  themselves.  It’s  a  burden  to  my 
host  to  have  so  many  guests.”  The  worker  agreed 

to  the  proposition. 

After  making  me  give  him  some  hot  water,  he 
compelled  me  to  lie  down  again  to  sleep  and  awa¬ 
kened  me  at  6-30.  Then  I  squeezed  fresh  fruit  juice 
for  him.  But  my  work  of  writing,  winding  the  yarn 
etc.  was  left  undone,  as  I  had  slept  at  the  time  set 
apart  for  these  jobs.  We  reached  this  place  in  good 
time.  The  village  is  only  a  mile  and  a  half  from 
Muriyam.  Before  leaving  Muriyam,  all  the  women 
met  Bapuji  once  again,  and  he  said  to  theny:  “Treat 
Hindu  women  as  your  own  sisters.  Purity  of  the 
heart  is  impossible  as  long  as  you  do  not  learn  to 
keep  your  hearts  and  houses  clean  inside  and  out. 
So,  from  this  day  forward  begin  to  keep  your  clothes, 
your  homes,  your  bodies  and  your  children  clean, 
and  you  will  see  that  purity  in  thought  and  deed 
follows  in  a  natural  sequence.”  After  comifrg  here 
Bapuji  did  some  writing.  He  had  his  meal  as  usual 
after  his  massage  and  bath,  and  asked  me  to  sit  with 
him  while  he  ate.  But  I  had  yet  to  take  my  bath,  so 


134 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 

I  could  not  keep  him  company.  He  said,  “Don’t 
waste  your  time  in  waiting  upon  me  while  I  eat,  fiom 
tomorrow.  Ba  used  to  pamper  me  like  that.  But  if  you 
sit  by  my  side  during  my  meal  to  drive  oft  flies,  as 
Ba  did,  neitheryou  nor  I  can  ever  finish  our  daily 

k)  5 

. 

Bapuji  had  a  long  siesta  in  the  afternoon  for 
an  hour  or  so,  because  he  was  indisposed.  A  Swami- 
ji  put  some  questions  to  Bapuji  from  the  Gita.  He 
said  in  reply’.  “Even  a  fault  committed  by  a  man  of 
God  is  paid  for  in  the  end.  I  ate  today,  thiough 
negligence,  more  than  I  should  have.  So  my  sto¬ 
mach  was  upset  and  required  rest.  I  feit  like  vomiting 
the  food  that  I  had  so  unwisely  eaten,  but  I  did  not 
want  to  do  it.  So,  I  lay  down  to  sleep  instead,  and 
the  vomit  was  thus  avoided.  T_he  effoithas  tired  me. 
Hamanama  gave  me  much  aid,  and  the  result  was 
that  I  could  sleep  well  after  all  and  everything  has 
turned  out  all  right.” 

I  eliminated  many  papers,  now  useless,  from 
Bapuji’s  portfolio.  Nirmalda  helped  me  in  this  job. 

Bapuji  dropped  his  evening  meal  altogether. 
He  asked  me  to  write  down  the  report  of  his  prayer- 
speech  from  tomorrow,  so  that  nothing  of  impoitance 
should  be  left  out  from  the  press  reports  of  his  speeches. 
Nirmalda  also  takes  down  a  report,  but  as  Bapuji 
speaks  in  Elindy  he  translates  it  immediately  into 
English  or  Bengali;  my  report  in  Hindi  would  thus 
give  the  very  words  Bapuji  speaks,  and  we  would 
thus  be  able  to  compare  and  check  the  twb  reports. 
A  useful  suggestion,  indeed! 

He  took  a  stroll  for  three  quarters  of  an  hour  after 
returning  from  evening  prayers.  Both  Bapuji  and 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL  135 

I  retired  to  sleep  at  9-30  p.m.  tonight,  the  earliest  in 
the  pilgrimage. 

Basa, 
26-1  -?47 

Bapuji  was  up  very  early  today.  He  had  to  get  up 
at  2-30  a.m.  to  use  the  latrine.  He  did  not  lie  down 
again  to  sleep  but  instead  examined  my  diary  and  did 
some  other  work.  Then  he  brushed  his  teeth  as  it 
was  almost  the  usual  time  to  get  up. 

Bapuji  expressed  again  his  desire  for  separate 
kitchen  for  those  volunteers .  who  accompanied  him. 
Our  host  at  Hirapur  had  provided  meals  for  all  of 
them  besides  us.  Bearing  that  fact  in  mind  Bapuji 
asked  .  .  .  ,  the  local  worker,  to  remember  his  ins¬ 
truction  regarding  the  kitchen  and  see  that  it  was 
carried  out. 

Today  being  Independence  Day,  ‘Vandemataram’ 
was  sung  before  we  started  from  Hirapur  at  7.40. 
Before  leaving  the  place  I  had  met  some  Muslim 
sisters.  They  expressed  their  desire  to  see  Bapuji.  I 
took  him  to  them.  But  all  of  them  except  one  only  scur¬ 
ried  into  their  homes  when  he  actually  came.  I  felt 
aggrieved  and  offended.  It  was  at  their  own  request 
that  I  had  brought  Bapuji  to  them  and  when  he  did 
come,  they  ran  away  and  would  not  come  out  in  spite 
of  my  earnest  persuasion !  Unaffected  by  this  slight, 
Bapuji  visited- them  all  individually  in  their  huts  and 
greeted  them.  Thus  it  was  Bapuji  who  paid  his  respects 
to  these  young  girls  of  15  or  16  years  of  age  and  not 
they  to  him!  I  was  ashamed  and  chagrined.  I  gave 
them  a  bit  of  my  mind:  “This  is  my  humiliation  more 
than  yours.  It  was  I  who  brought  Bapuji  to  you  at 
your  personal  request  and  you,  teenagers  like  myself, 


136 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


contrived  to  create  a  situation  by  which  Bapuji  had 
to  come  to  you  on  his  own  to  greet  you  first! 
You  are  my  own  sisters  and  so  I  feel  ashamed  all 
the  more.  I  don’t  mind  if  you  don’t  think  that  a 
great  man  has  come  to  your  doors.  I  can  understand 
your  refusal  to  recognize  him  at  all  as  a  great  man, 
though  he  is  to  my  mind  the  living  image  of  God. 
But  because  he  is  much  older  than  you,  he  should  have 
been  respected  and  properly  welcomed,  as  befits  his 
years!”  It  took  me  a  long  time  to  persuade  them  to 
accept  my  plea  and  come  out,  and  that,  too,  because 
we  had  gone  first  to  meet  them  individually  in  their 
own  homes.  “Just  see  how  every  girl’s  mind  is  poison¬ 
ed !”  said  Bapuji,  “how  very  widespread  is  this  venom 
even  among  adult  women !  So  now,  be  as  useful  as 
you  possibly  can  to  extract  it.  Your  pure  heart  cannot 
fail  to  echo  in  theirs.  Be  sure  that  to  the  degree  you 
can  succeed  in  this  work,  to  that  degree,  I,  too  can, 
succeed  in  mine.  We  two  are  alone  and  unfriended 
in  this  great  sacrifice.  So  you  are  to  do  this  work  at 
the  cost  of  any  work  you  do  for  me.  Did  you  mark 
that  it  was  at  the  instigation  of  the  older  men  that  the 
girls  didn’t  come  out  at  first?  Just  the  reverse  of  what 
we  saw  the  day  before  at  Habib  Saheb’s.” 

We  arrived  at  8.10  a.m.  This  was  our  shortest 
march  in  the  entire  pilgrimage.  Bapuji  felt  as  if  he 
had  not  walked  at  all!  Immediately  on  arrival  he 
looked  at  the  post.  Letters  to  Rashid  Ahmed,  Kularan- 
janbabu,  Prakasham,  Jawaharlalji,  Madalasabahen, 
Dr.  Joshi  and  Ravishankar  Shukla  were  written.  Then 
Shailenbabu,  an  A.P.I.  representative,  came  up  with 
a  proposal  for  celebration  of  Independence  Day, 
which  is  today.  He  replied,  “To  me  for  one,  this 
sacrifice  which  I  have  begun  is  itself  a  continued 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


137 

celebiation  ot  the  Day.  But  to  cheer  up  the  spirit 
oi  the  local  people,  you,  pressmen  and  others,  may 
certainly  go  ahead  with  your  idea.5’ 

>  So,  tne  flag  salutation  was  performed  by  Sardar 
Niranjansingh  Gil.  Bapuji  and  I  merely  attended  the 
function  and  immediately  thereafter  we  went  straight 
to  the  tent  pitched  in  the  bright  sunshine  for  Bapuji’s 
massage.  An  inter-communal  dinner  was  also  ar¬ 
ranged.  But  news  came  later  on  that  the  local  Hindu 
washermen  would  not  attend  it  if  the  Muslims  did. 
They  wereafiaici  lest  they  should  be  lorcibly  converted 
to  Islam  after  we  left  the  place.  “Let  them  abstain,” 
said  Bapuji  in  grief,  “if  they  are  so  much  afraid;  the 
dinner  must  be  held  in  this  street.55  He  told  me  to  attend 
the  dinner .  He  is  observing  a  fast  in  sorrow  on  the 
occasion.  Hence,  he  drank  only  warm  water  with 
honey  aftei  his  bath.  The  fast  will  end  m  the  evening. 
He  did  another  thing  —  spun  much  more  today  than 
usual.  Lying  with  the  mud-packs  on,  he  dictated 
letters  to  Manilalbhai  of  Uruli  Kanchan*,  Gokhaieji, 
Dhirubhai,  Dr.  Bhagawatji  and  ParamanandbhaL 

At  tne  evening  prayer  meeting,  Bapuji  gave  vent 
to  the  matters  which  made  his  heart  heavy  with  sorrow 
as  he  spoke  about  Independence  Day: 

“loday  is  the  26th  of  January,  the  day  of  our 
Freedom.  When  Congress  was  born,  India  obtained  a 
new  lease  of  life.  Only  a  few  Indians  at  the  time 
were  aware  of  the  political  significance  of  this,  but 
gradually  the  Congress  grew  strong  and  it  awakened 
freedom-consciousness  in  every  village  by  starting  mass 
agitations.  In  the  days  prior  to  communal  hatred  no  one 
cared  whether  a  person  was  a  Hindu  or  a  Muslim. 


*A  nature-cure  centre 


138 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


It  is  a  sad  thing  to  have  to  say  that  there  are  two  opinions 
now  where  there  was  only  one  before.  But  for  the  poisoned 
atmosphere  prevalent  here,  I  would  have  surely  unfurled  the 
tri-coloured  flag  myself.  Some  friends  suggested  that  I 
should  perform  the  ceremony,  but  I  refused.  Had  an 
English  officer,  however,  decreed  that  there  should  be  no 
flag-hoisting  here,  I  would  certainly  have  raised  that  same 
standard,  even  if  it  cost  me  my  life.  But  my  hands  are 
tied  today  by  my  own  brothers.  Suppose  I  unfurled  the 
flag  and  even  my  Muslim  brothers  accept  it  in  sullen  silence, 
they  would,  in  their  hearts,  look  upon  it  as  a  calamity. 
That’s  what  I  don’t  want  them  to  feel.  At  the  same  time, 

I  must  have  my  say  in  this  matter.  When  the  question  of 
our  having  a  flag  of  our  own  came  up,  I  thought  it  unjust 
to  have  only  one  colour  for  it,  as  there  are  not  one  but 
many  communities  in  India.  A  day  there  surely  was,  when 
all  the  communities  of  India-Hindu,  Muslim,  Parsi  and  all 
others — cherished  this  flag  as  their  own.  Lives,  too,  have 
been  sacrificed  to  hold  it  aloft.  But  now  many  flags  have 
sprung  up  like  mushroom  growths,  but  only  our  tri-coloured 
flag  should  stand  alone  in  all  its  pristine  glory,  just  like  the 
Union  Jack.  But  that  golden  day  of  unity  unfortunately 
now  belongs  to  the  past.  Whom  shall  I  appeal  to  or  fight 
with  for  that  day’s  return  ?  We  are  all  sons  of  India  and 
hence  are  brothers.  What  is  our  freedom  worth  if  it  accen¬ 
tuates  internecine  strife  and  hatred  ?  But  proclaiming 
unity  is  as  absurd  as  building  a  castle  in  the  air,  which 
falls  at  the  first  breath  of  wind. 

There  can  be  only  one  call  at  present  which  we  all 
must  heed  —  that  of  winning  freedom  for  India;  and  we  must 
never  rest  till  it  is  won.  But  today  brothers  are  fighting 
against  their  own  brothers.  How  can  there  be  a  Pakistan 
before  we  win  our  freedom  ?  Is  it  the  British  who  will  grant 
Pakistan?  And  who  knows  what  kind  of  freedom  we  shall 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


139 


have?  The  Britisher  is  certain  to  quit.  But  America  and  Russia 
are  not  yet  out  of  the  picture.  If  we  are  not  alert  we  are  lost. 
Only  a  little  while  ago  you  all  sang  ‘Janamanagana’.*  What 
an  ennobling  song !  And  there  are  many  other  songs  as  well 
which  affect  us  like  electric  charges.  We  can  be  united  into 
one,  if  we  but  sing  them  sincerely,  from  the  heart.  And  if 
we  don’t  unite  we  shall  be  considered  fools  by  the  rest  of  the 
world.  If  you  feel  at  heart  that  you  should  need  this  warn¬ 
ing  of  an  old,  experienced  man,  you  must  start  from  today 
to  change  your  thoughts  and  deeds  in  accordance  with  my 
advice. 

Not  I  but  the  pressmen  with  me  unfurled  the  flag  today. 
It  was  for  this  same  freedom  that  great  man  of  Bengal, 
Subhash  Chandra  Bose  laid  down  his  life.  If  even  for  his 
sake  we  can’t  give  up  our  petty  communal  outlook,  for 
whom  else  can  we  do  it?” 

After  his  return  from  his  evening  walk  Bapuji 
drank  some  milk  and  ate  dates.  Completing  my  work, 
I  went  to  attend  the  common  dinner,  organized  by 
the  pressmen  here,  as  I  had  been  invited  to  if.  It  was 
a  very  frugal  meal  of  khichadi\  and  a  vegetable.  They 
were  all  waiting  for  me,  as  I  was  late  for  the  dinner 
by  half  an  hour.  When  I  returned  at  8.30  p.m.  I  found 
Bapuji  reading  the  papers.  He  slept  after  9.30  p.m. 
but  had  to  get  up  once  or  twice  to  answer  the  calls  of 
nature.  So,  every  night  as  I  lie  down  to  sleep  I  say 
to  myself,  “I’ll  get  up  to  give  him  tepid  water  when 
he  needs  it.  But  Bapuji  is  very  careful  not  to  make 
any  noise  when  he  gets  up.  So,  I  never  know  of  it. 
On  the  contrary,  when  he  finds  me  lying  curled  up 
because  of  the  cold,  he  gently  covers  me  up.  Tonight, 

*  Recognized  now  as  the  National  Anthem  of  India 
\  Rice  and  lentil  mixed  first  and  then  boiled 


140 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


therefore,  before  getting  to  bed  I  toldBapuji,  “Instead 
of  me  serving  you,  it  is  you  who  serve  me  at  nignt. 
So  please  do  wake  me  up  from  tonight  onwards.” 

“You  are  talking  of  my  service  at  night,”  countered 
Bapuji,  “but  don’t  I  accept  yours  amply  by  day?  And 
at  night  you  lie  sound  asleep  like  a  corpse.  I  call  it 
the  healthy  sleep  of  the  innocent  and  like  it  very  much 
indeed!  That’s  an  assurance  of  your  innocence.  A 
man’s  inner  nature  expresses  itself  through  his  outer 
self.  Let  him  not  say  anything,  but  a  man  reveals  the 
quality  of  his  being  through  his  daily  actions  and 
behaviour  when  sleeping,  eating,  talking  and  dealing 
with  others  etc.” 

I  pressed  Bapuji’s  legs,  rubbed  oil  on  his  head,, 
bowed  down  to  him  and  closed  the  mosquito-net. 
It  is  now  quarter  to  eleven.  I  have  finished  my  diary* 
I  have  now  only  to  crush  the  end  of  a  tooth-stick  for 
Bapuji,  which  when  done,  I  can  retire. 

Palla, 

27-l-’47,  Monday 

The  cold  was  so  bitter  today,  that  I  had  to  force 
myself  to  get  up.  Bapuji’s  feet  had  grown  ice  cold 
and  I  had  to  massage  them  for  long  to  warm 
them.  Prayers  and  other  routine  activities  were  carried 
out  as  usual. 

I  have  begun  to  carry  my  diary  to  the  evening 
prayer-meeting.  I  write  it  up  as  Bapuji’s  speech  is 
being  translated  into  Bengali.  Bapuji  listens  to  the 
entries  in  my  diary  the  next  morning,  as  he  sips  warm 
water  and  after  a  quick  glance  through  it,  signs  it. 

Bapuji  completed  the  Bengali  alphabet  today* 
He  took  a  full  half  an  hour  to  write  it  down.  Then, 


f 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


141 


after  some  letter  writing  he  lay  down  to  rest  for  a 
short  while.  We  left  Basa  at  7.40  and  arrived  here 
at  8.10.  We  had  only  a  mile  to  cover. 

We  are  staying  in  a  weaver’s  cottage.  The 
weavers  here  are  regarded  ‘untouchables’.  Bapuji 
observes  his  weekly  silence.  The  weaver-family  is  all 
love  to  us.  When  it  was  bright  sunshine,  I  massaged 
Bapuji.  After  his  bath  he  basked  in  the  sun,  and 
enjoyed  it. 

For  his  noon-day  meal  he  had  5  cashew  nuts,  5 
almonds,  some  puffed  rice  and  vegetable.  Bapuji 
spent  much  of  his  time  in  reading  Rajendrababu’s 
Autobiography  which  arrived  recently.  I  have  quite 
a  holiday-feeling  today  as  it  is  Monday,  the  day  of 
Bapuji’s  silence.  So  I  got  through  a  lot  of  extra¬ 
routine  work.  Bapuji’s  carpet  and  bed-sheets  were 
dirty.  I  washed  them  all  in  one  go.  That  meant 
40  clothes  to  wash.  I  finished  at  3  p.m.  Then  I  made 
the  khakharas  for  tomorrow,  to  usefully  utilize  my  off- 
time  still  further. 

At  2  p.m.  Bapuji  drank  some  cocoanut-water. 
After  evening  prayers,  we  visited  the  home  of  the 
ex-President  (a  Muslim)  of  the  Union  here.  Bapuji 
accepted  the  offer  of  cocoanut  water.  The  ladies  of 
the  house  came  out  and  met  Bapuji.  One  of  them  had 
studied  up  to  the  8th  form.  In  his  talk  to  them,  Bapuji 
emphasized  the  need  for  women  to  learn  to  read  and 
write,  and  to  learn  the  art  of  hand-spinning  as  well, 
as  it  saves  us  60%  of  our  cloth-bill.  Moreover,  India 
is  a  cotton-growing  country,  and  prices  of  cloth  have 
soared  high.  Why  should  there  be  any  control 
over  cloth  at  all  in  our  country  which  produces  cotton? 
If  women  care  to  think  it  over,  they  will  assuredly  find 
that  they  waste  a  lot  of  time.  Even  little  girls  can 


142 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


spin —  s0  easy  it  is.  The  purdah  observed  should  be  ol 
the  mind,  not  of  the  body.  Purdah  really  means 
modesty,  decorum,  respectful  behaviour;  what  is  the 
use  of  having  an  outer  purdah  for  show,  when  the 
mind  is  full  of  sin? 

Bapuji  is  very  pleased  with  our  host  of  today  - 
the  ‘untouchable’  weaver.  He  referred  to  him  in  his 
prayer-speech : 

“I  am  really  happy  that  I  am  staying  with  a  Harijan 
weaver.  He  looks  after  me  with  such  love  and  caret 
A  palace,  where  love  is  not,  is  a  prison;  and  a  hut  where 
love  abides  is  more  than  a  palace.  But  the  fact  remains  that; 
I  am  charmed  with  all  these  huts  of  Bengal.  How  can  you 
get  light-ancl-air  in  a  wall-enclosed  room?  The  tragedy  is 
that  while  there  is  such  a  simple  style  of  living  here  and 
Nature  has  lavished  her  gifts  with  open  hands,  the  Hindus 
and  Muslims  here  do  not  treat  one  another  as  brothers.  Shall 
we  debase  ourselves  to  sub-human  creatures,  simply  because, 
our  creeds  differ?  But  I,  for  one,  have  every  hope  that  we 
shall  forget  all  this  very  soon  and  understand  our  responsi¬ 
bilities.  Even  now  shops  continue  to  remain  closed  in  areas 
affected  by  the  riots,  and  people  look  askance  at  one  another. 
But  all  that  recoils  upon  us  alone  and  none  is  the  gainer. 
On  the  one  hand  a  famine  is  impending  for  failure  of  farm- 
produce  and  on  the  other  we  are  harming  ourselves  by  our 
ignorance  and  inertia.  We  are  only  digging  our  own  graves 
if  we  continue  to  behave  as  we  are  doing  now. 

There  are  so  many  things  we  can  do  without  troubling 
the  Government.  We  can  easily  do  many  things  ourselves; 
for  instance,  improving  general  health  and  sanitation,  insist¬ 
ing  on  cleanliness,  rearing  fresh  fruit  and  flower  plants,  mak¬ 
ing  good  manure  and  compost  etc.  Several  such  matters  are 
awaiting  our  attention.  If  we  use  our  brains  to  this  end 
what  a  stupendous  gain  it  will  be  to  us  and  our  motherland! 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


143 


And  I  guarantee  that  then  we  will  not  have  a  moment  to 
spare  for  quarrels.  But  we  can  attain  this  happy  state  only  if 
our  intellect  matures  and  we  give  up  the  close  grooves  of  our 
present  way  of  thinking.  Like  the  song  of  this  girl:  ‘Grant 
us  intelligence  unclouded  and  free’,  I  too  pray  to  God  to 
open  our  eyes  to  truth  and  wisdom  and  endow  us  with  the 
strength  to  do  the  things  helpful  to  all  of  us.” 


As  Nirmalda  was  translating  this  prayer-speech* 
Bapuji  and  I  wrote  up  our  diaries. 

I  washed  his  feet  on  his  return  from  the  walk 
which  he  took  after  the  prayers.  He  seemed  thorou¬ 
ghly  tired  out  by  then.  The  cold,  too,  was  bitter. 
He  took  only  a  steamed  apple  and  drank  some  milk. 
With  a  coverlet  wrapped  around  him,  he  spun  after 
this  frugal  meal.  Shailenbhai  then  read  the  papers, 
to  him.  As  Bapuji’s  body  was  cramped  with  cold, 
I  pressed  it  all  over  to  give  him  warmth.  After  9.15 
p.m.  I  prepared  his  bed.  After  washing  his  hands 
and  feet  and  taking  some  warm  water  he  lay  down. 
I  rubbed  him  over  with  oil  and  pressed  his  legs  and  I 
got  to  sleep  at  9.45  p.m.  Today  was  the  coldest  day^ 
in  our  experience  here.  Bapuji  had  to  wake  me  up 
at  midnight,  as  he  could  not  bear  the  cold.  I  covered 


him  with  more  quilts  and  warmed  his  body  by  pressing 
it  all  over  again. 


Panchgaon^ 

28-1-H7 

Prayers  at  Palla  as  per  routine.  Nirmalda  sang 
the  hymn  today  in  a  very  melodious  voice. 

Bapuji  discussed  some  women’s  problems  last  night. 
One  of  the  questions  put  to  him  was:  “What  should 
a  woman  do  if  attacked  by  ruffians  ?  Should  she  run 
away  or  keep  arms  ready  for  defence?” 


144 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


“Readiness  with  arms  is  readiness  to  kill;  that 
should  never  be  done,”  answered  Bapuji.  “But  one 
should  prepare  oneself  mentally  to  cultivate  ideal  non¬ 
violent  courage.  A  real  crisis  seldom  faces  the  man 
with  true  non-violence  at  heart.  So,  one  should  pre¬ 
pare  oneself  to  meet  death  with  a  cheerful  face  and  in 
a  quiet  dignified  manner.  The  truth  is  that  it  is 
not  our  weapons  but  God  that  really  nelps  us. 

The  world  does  not  possess  today  the  courage  that 
ensues  from  ideal  non-violent  principles.  That  is 
why  it  has  armed  itself  with  atom-bombs  and  the  like. 
But  men  as  individuals  will  have  to  learn  to  move 
about  as  free  persons,  naturally  self-reliant  and  inde¬ 
pendent  of  extraneous  aids.  Our  women  ought  to 
grow  courageous  enough  to  give  up  their  lives  before 
yielding  to  advances  from  brutes.  If  they  have  suffi¬ 
cient  purity  of  heart,  then  I  say,  even  the  weapons  of 
desperadoes  will  fall  of  themselves.  If  I  am  asked  to 
choose  between  giving  one’s  life  and  taking  some 
other’s  for  my  own  protection,  I  will  assert  that  true 
courage  lies  in  the  former.” 

In  the  dictation  of  the  letters  which  followed  the 
prayers,  Bapuji  referred  to  this  matter  again.  He 
dozed  off  for  a  while  during  the  dictation.  A  sister 
had  written  a  letter  to  Bapuji  with  a  pencil.  To  her 
he  wrote,  “Write  always  in  ink  in  future.  It  is  a 
sin,  it  is  violence  to  others  and  sloth  in  ourselves  to 
write  with  the  hazy  pencil.” 

Keeping  to  time,  we  started  off  from  Falla  for  this 
place  at  exactly  7.30  a. m.  But  we  visited  three  persons 
on  the  way  —  Ramkumar  De,  Mahmad  Roza  and 
Muftis  Raham  and  reached  here  late  at  9.  a.m.  At 
Muftis  Raham’s  house  I  went  to  the  ladies’  apartment 
as  is  my  wont,  but  the  women  folk  ran  indoors  and 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


145 


had  the  door  shut  against  me!  This  was  a  new  ex¬ 
perience.  A  little  later,  however,  a  lady  of  mature 
age  approached  me  and  talked  very  affably.  She 
asked  me  my  relationship  to  Bapuji.  Gradually  the 
others  emerged,  one  by  one.  One  of  them  was  cook¬ 
ing  at  the  time.  She  pressed  me  to  have  a  fish-cutlet 
and  roti.  I  said  I  didn’t  take  fish  at  all  and  was  not 
in  the  habit  of  taking  any  roti  so  early.  “These  are  all 
but  excuses;  and  you  say  Gandhiji  is  out  to  forge 
Hindu-Muslim  unity!  But  the  fact  is  that  Hindus 
consider  themselves  superior  beings  and  us  as  contem¬ 
ptible  creatures  and  feel  themselves  defiled  by 
our  contact.  And  you,  too,  are  a  Hindu  after  all,” 
retorted  the  adult  lady. 

“I  have  no  such  inhibitions  at  all,”  I  averred; 
“and  I  am  quite  prepared  to  eat  a  bit  of  your  roti , 
to  remove  your  suspicions,  but  your  baking  pan  and 
hands  should  be  free  from  any  contact  with  particles 
of  fish.” 

They  prepared  a  special  roti  of  that  kind  for  me 
and  I  took  just  a  small  bit  from  its  edge.  These  ladies 
thus  tested  me  and  then  remarked,  “You  at  least 
have  no  such  aversions  at  heart.” 

As  we  proceeded  on  our  way  I  reported  all  this 
to  Bapuji.  “You  did  the  right  thing  in  eating  a  bit 
of  roti”  said  Bapuji,  “but  you  noticed,  I  hope,  how 
prejudiced  these  women  are  against  even  me?” 
Oranges  were  sent  to  us  by  Mahmad  Roza.  I  mass¬ 
aged  Bapuji  immediately  after  washing  his  feet  on 
our  arrival  here.  Then  his  bath,  and  meal;  he  had 
two  khakharas ,  a  vegetable,  two  cashewnuts,  milk  and 
just  a  small  piece  of  sandesh  to  please  our  host.  He 
dictated  some  more  letters  as  he  ate.  When  he  got 
up  from  his  rest  he  drank  the  water  of  two  cocoanuts. 


146 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


Then,  as  he  continued  to  spin,  he  dictated  more 
letters,  but  Pyarelalji  and  Sushilabahen  came  up 
and  the  dictation  had  to  be  stopped. 

In  his  evening  prayer-speech,  Bapuji  referred  to 
my  experience  with  the  Muslim  women.  He  observed! 

“On  my  way  here  I  was  taken  to  three  homes,  one  Hindu 
and  two  Muslim.  It  gave  me  very  great  pleasure  to  go  to 
them  as  all  I  crave  for  is  love  and  nothing  more.  I  was  not 
informed  in  advance  of  the  places  I  would  be  taken  to,  but 
I  saw  love  in  the  eyes  of  those  who  invited  me,  and  so  I 
went.  At  all  the  three  places  Lwas  offered  something  to  eat, 
but  it  was  not  the  time  when  I  usually  ate,  so  I  said  I  would 
gladly  accept  some  fruit  if  they  sent  any  to  my  next  halt. 
My  grand-daughter  accompanies  me.  The  ladies  welcomed 
her  with  love  and  an  old  dame  folded  her  in  close  embrace 
on  knowing  who  she  was.  A  Muslim  sister  who  had  made 
fish  cutlet  and  rotis  at  the  time,  pressed  her  to  partake- of  the 
fare.  What  could  the  poor  girlie  say  to  it?  She  refused  the 
offer  on  the  ground  that  she  did  not  take  anything  at  that 
early  hour.  The  Muslim  ladies  thereupon  suspected  that 
this  Hindu  girl  was  not  willing  to  eat,  because  at  heart  she 
felt  she  would  be  polluted.  So,  to  allay  their  suspicion,  she 
broke  a  piece  from  their  roti  and  ate  it.  Those  sisters  were 
satisfied  and  pleased.  Neither  I  nor  those  who  associate  with 
me  ever  have  any  caste  or  creed  objection  and  we  have  no 
inhibitions  against  dining  with  anybody.  But  I  appeal  to 
my  Muslim  friends  to  look  with  a  lenient  eye  upon  those 
Hindus  who  think  they  would  lose  their  religion  if  they  ate 
at  the  hands  of  a  Muslim.  I  fully  endorse  the  view  that  that 
belief  is  wrong.  But  is  taking  food  together  the  only  true 
test  of  brotherly  love?  This  erroneous  belief  is  sure  to 
wear  off  with  time.  Much  has  been  achieved  already  in  this 
direction.  But  please  don’t  fail  to  appreciate  love  wherever 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL  147 

you  find  it  till  that  attitude  completely  wears  out.  Only  in 

this  way  can  you  come  near  one  another.” 

Turning  then  to  what  had  happened  on  the  26th 
of  January  he  continued,  “The  pressmen  who  follow 
me  had  arranged  a  mass  dinner  of  all  castes  and  creeds. 
Muslim  brothers  did  not  join  in  it,  but  the  host  of  my 
brothers  — the  press  reporters  —  told  them  with  folded 
hands,  T  beg  of  you  earnestly  not  to  insist  that  I 
partake  of  your  common  dinner.  You  will  leave 
me  in  a  day,  but  calamity  will  beset  me  after  you  go. 
The  people  here  will  bring  tremendous  pressure  to 
bear  upon  me  saying,  ‘You  have  now  lost  caste  by  tak¬ 
ing  meals  with  them.  So  you  shall  be  a  Muslim  now.5 

“  I  felt  that  the  man’s  fear  was  well-founded.  So 
I  had  to  request  the  pressmen  not  to  hold  the  common 
dinner  in  the  poor  man’s  hut.  I  don’t  know  when  both 
Hindus  and  Muslims  will  shed  off  their  respective 
weaknesses,  and  come  close  to  one  another.  But  I 
am  prepared  to  give  up  my  very  life,  if  need  be,  to  see 
this  object  realized,  and  I  appeal  to  you  all  to  pray~ 
with  me.  ‘Oh!  God!  Bring  that  golden  day  soon’.” 

So  Bapuji  made  a  moving  appeal  from  a  trifling' 
incident  which  had  happened  to  me. 

On  his  return,  he  drank  8  oz.  of  milk  and  ate  8 
dates.  Tnen  he  talked  to  Pyaretalji  on  important 
issues,  wrote  his  prayer  speech  and  some  letters  and- 
then  went  to  sleep  at  10  p.m. 

Jayaga,. 

29-l-’47 

Bapuji’s  prayer  and  other  items  of  routine  were 
carried  out  punctually,  according  to  schedule.  He 
looked  at  some  of  the  post,  wrote  down  the  Bengali 
alphabet  and  asked  me  to  do  the  same1,  Bapuji  first 


148 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


learns  Bengali  words  himself  and  then  teaches  them 
to  me.  But  the  amusing  thing  is  that  thougn  he  fi 
writes  down  a  letter  which  I  am  asKed  to  trace  on 
over  and  over  again,  he  does  not  hesitate  to  learn  from 
me  his  pupil  and  grand-daughter,  a  letter  or  a  word 
which  he  does  not  know  himself.  I,  too,  ask  him 
whatever  I  don’t  understand.  We  struggle  thus  at 
first  and  when  both  of  us  fail  to  make  sense,  we  appeal 
to  Nirmalda  to  help  us  out.  So  when  he  saw  me 
drawing  my  pen  repeatedly  over  a  Bengali  letter  wn  - 
ten  by  Bapuji,  a  novice  himself,  Nirmalda  was  muc 
amused.  He  burst  out  laughing  and  said,  What  a 
pair!  The  teacher  and  the  taught!”  That  is  how 
we  manage  our  Bengali  lessons. 

At  7.30  a.m.  we  left  Panchgaon  and  arrived  here 
at  8.15.  With  loving  enthusiasm  our  host  had  kept 
vigil  the  whole  night  in  order  to  provide  us  with  all 
possible  comforts,  and  thus  arranged  for,  what  I  call, 
a  'festival  in  a  forest’. 


With  what  unbounded  love  was  Rama  received, 
(as  we  read  in  the  Ramayana,)  by  the  aboriginal 
Bhils,  by  wild  foresters  and  even  by  birds  and  beasts, 
whenever  he  chanced  to  enter  their  jungle !  Our  recep¬ 
tion  is  a  replica  of  the  welcome  accorded  to  Rama. 
Our  hosts  are  weavers,  shoemakers,  and  other  Harijans 
living  in  out  of  the  way  places.  But  they  welcome  us 
with  such  a  wealth  of  love  that  the  gorgeous  receptions 
given  by  the  eminent  residents  of  big  cities  like  Delhi, 
Bombay  and  Poona  pale  in  comparison.  Besides,  in 
large  towns  and  cities  there  are  educated  and  cultuied 
men  whom  Bapuji  has  moulded  to  his  ideas.  Also,  there 
is  always  a  class  of  readers  in  such  places  of  his  extensive 
literature.  But  our  welcome  here  is  due  only  to  love 
and  devotion.  Casting  aside  their  sorrows,  the  women 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


149 


blow  the  auspicious  conch,  distribute  sweets,  put  the 
vermilion  mark  on  Bapuji’s  forehead  and  kindling  rows 
of  festive  lights  wave  them  before  him  in  order  to 
acclaim  the  gala  eveut  of  his  arrival.  I  have  seen,  I 
repeat,  many  a  grand  reception  held  in  honour  of 
Bapuji,  but  they  are  as  nothing  before  those  given  here. 
All  around  Nature  has  attired  herself  in  a  costume 
of  the  gayest  colours.  Then  there  are  these  villages  of 
Noakhali,  sweet  and  charming.  Added  to  them  are 
the  hearty  receptions  given  us  by  the  simple  and  sincere 
village-folk  here.  And  to  crown  everything  my  constant 
awareness  of  my  good  fortune  in  having  the  chance  to 
travel  with  the  saint  who  pilgrimages  barefoot  in  this 
stinging  and  oppressive  cold  weather.  You  can  now 
understand  why  I  am  at  a  loss  to  express  the  joy  I  feel. 
But  an  example  from  the  Ramayana  may  give  you 
some  idea  of  my  happiness.  How  happy  must 
Lakshman  have  felt  when  Ramachandra  finally  com¬ 
plied  with  his  earnest  entreaty  to  let  him  accompany 
his  elder  brother  in  his  sojourns  to  far-off  forests!  I 
feel  a  similar  exaltation  from  this  glorious  opportunity 
which  God  has  granted  me  to  be  by  Bapuji’s  side  in  his 
holy  march.  Verily  His  grace  knows  no  bounds! 

Upon  our  arrival  here,  I  washed  Bapuji’s  feet. 
Dr.  Sushilabahen  has  come  here  and  she  massaged 
him  today.  In  the  meanwhile  I  prepared  khakharas 
and  a  vegetable  for  Bapuji,  so  that  he  could  have  his 
meal  immediately  after  his  bath.  This  prompt  service 
elicited  the  following  remark  from  him,  “I  am  really 
very  well  looked  after,  but  I  feel  uneasy.  What  wor¬ 
ries  me  is  my  failure  to  meet  the  demands  of  the  ever- 
increasing  work  here.” 

Bapuji  replied  today  to  some  questions  put  to  him. 
This  is  the  gist: 


150 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


Q.:  Does  Bapuji  want  Muslims  also  to  attend 
his  prayers  ? 

A. :  I  never  insist  that  members  of  all  communities 
should  join  in  my  prayers.  But  if  my  Muslim  brothers 
do  so,  I  shall  certainly  be  very  happy.  As  it  is,  Muslims 
have  been  attending  my  prayers  for  many  years  past. 

(A  ;  Is  it  not  true  that  you  are  held  as  an  incar¬ 
nation  of  God?  Though  a  Hindu  yourself,  why  do  you 
repeat  in  your  prayers  verses  from  the  Holy  Koran  ? 
How  can  you  equate  (the  human)  Rama  witn  Rahim 
or  Krishna  with  Karim? 

A.:  These  objections  have  given  me  very  deep 
pain.  To  raise  them  is  to  expose  one’s  own  narrowness 
of  mind.  The  inclusion  of  verses  from  the  Koran  in 
my  prayers  was  introduced  by  a  staunch  Muslim 
lady,  Bibi  Raihanabahen,  Abbas  Tyabji’s  grand¬ 
daughter,  who  is  to  me  as  my  own  daughter.  I  am 
neither  an  incarnation  of  God,  nor  a  Messiah  as  I  am 
made  out  to  be.  I  am  but  a  humble  servant  of  Khuda 
or  God,  humbler  than  the  most  ordinary.  I  only 
want  to  make  Hindus  better  Hindus,  Muslims  better 
Muslims,  Christians  better  Christians  and  so  on.  I 
have  never  persuaded  any  one  to  change  his  creed. 
My  religion  is  broad  enough  to  include  in  my  prayers 
the  texts  of  all  religions.  God  or  Khuda  has  not  one 
but  numerous  names.  How  can  we  insist  that  He 
should  be  called  only  Rama  or  Rahim  and,  by  no 
other  name  ?  I  do  not  consider  myself  an  angel  come 
down  from  heaven,  nor  do  I  base  my  actions  on  that 
false  premise.  I  am  a  human  being  just  like  you. 
And  God  is  One,  though  called  by  different  names. 
Some  persons  call  Him  Khuda,  whereas  others  speak 
of  Him  as  Prabhu.  The  God  of  the  Muslims  is  the 
same  as  the  God  of  the  Hindus.  But  through  our 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


151 


blurred  vision  we  see  Him  as  differing  with  each  re¬ 
ligion.  I  have  deliberately  repeated  this  idea  in  order 

that  you  may  understand  me  and  my  work  all  the 
better.” 

Then  addiessing  the  young  men  who  were  present 
he  said,  “Our  country  is  in  serious  danger  today. 
Those  young  men  and  women,  who  have  migrated 
to  cities  like  Bombay  and  Calcutta  to  earn  their  living, 
ought  to  help  our  country  in  its  hour  of  need.  There 
is  an  easy  way  to  do  so,  without  incurring  loss  of  any 
kind.  Employees  and  businessmen  engaged  in  the 
same  profession  can  confer  together  and  grant  leave 
m  rotation  to  some  of  them  for  a  stated  period.  Those 
who  get  leave  should  work  in  the  villages  for  that  period 
and  then  resume  their  own  work  and  another  batch 
could  be  sent  to  replace  them.  Thus,  neither  the  busi¬ 
nessmen  nor  their  employees  will  suffer  materially 
and  yet  our  villages  will  gain.  Those  who  can’t 
render  personal  service  to  villages  could  help  with 
money,  if  they  can  spare  some. 

“What  tremendous  sacrifices  people  of  advanced 
countries  like  England,  Russia  etc.  undergo  in  their 
patiiotic  zeal!  It  cannot  but  evoke  our  admiration 
and  respect.  If  to  serve  our  nation  in  a  like  manner, 
only  one  man  and  one  woman  came  forward  from 
every  iamily,  what  stupendous  achievements  would  it 
bring  about !  In  this  way  alone  is  internal  unity  in  a 
laige  mass  of  men  attained.  I  here  has  been  no  dearth 
of  patriots  in  our  own  country,  but  all  their  splendid 
achievements  are  being  wiped  away  because  brother 
stabs  brother  today.  I  pray  to  God  that  we  rise  above 
the  narrow,  selfish  bonds  which  are  hampering  us.” 

In  the  evening  we  visited  a  camp  of  displaced 
peisons.  There  is  a  school  for  children  in  this  place. 


J52  THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 

The  youngsters  did  some  physical  exercises  and  Bapuji 
gave  one  of  them  a  book  and  a  slate  as  a  prize. 
Oranges,  which  we  had  with  us,  were  distributed  to 
the  other  children.  From  there  we  went  for  our  evening 
stroll.  On  our  return  Bapuji  ate  some  dates  and 

drank  milk.  f 

There  are  cuts  again  on  the  soles  Oi  Bapuji  s  teet 

today,  perhaps  due  to  the  unbearable  cold  here  and  to 
his  walking  bare-footed  on  rough  tracks.  One  has  to 
submit  cheerfully  to  God’s  will!  I  was  ed  is  ee 
at  night  and  covered  the  cuts  with  ointment.  I  actually 
shuddered  at  the  sight  of  the  long  deep  fissure  below  t  he 
right  large  toe  and  my  eyes  closed  for  a  moment  beioie 
I  bandaged  it.  But  alas!  all  this  dressing  and  treat¬ 
ment  will  go  to  waste.  He  will  again  walk  withou 
chapals  tomorrow  morning.  That  will  undo  whatever 
good  my  treatment  does,  and  his  foot  will  revert  to  its 
present  sore  state.  How  I  wish  Bapuji  would  use 
some  sort  of  footwear,  now  at  least!  But  I  can  t  sum¬ 
mon  courage  enough  to  tell  him  so. 

Bapuji  did  his  spinning  after  9  p.m.  I  counted 
the  rounds  which  came  to  260.  Then  Bapuji  asked 
for  water  to  wash  his  face  and  hands,  by  way  of  pre¬ 
paration  to  go  to  sleep.  He  uses  cold  water  for  it. 
thought  however  that  tonight  I  should  give  him  warm 
water  owing  to  the  severe  weather.  So  I  handed  him 
warm  water.  But  my  officiousness  cost  me  dear.  At 
the  touch  of  that  warm  water  Bapuji  said,  it  you 
really  feel  pity  for  me,  do  this  :  Get  a  thick  padded 
nuilt  for  me.  Call  for  motor-cars  tor  my  use.  Then 
build  a  palace  with  comfortable,  centrally-heated 
rooms  and  instal  His  Eminence  the  Mahatma  m  it. 
A  great  idea!  Isn  t  it  so? 

I  realized  that  his  remarks  were  sarcastic. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


153 


“Have  you  ever  stopped  to  think,”  he  proceeded 
in  an  irate  tone,  “what  luxury  it  is  for  me  to  have 
warm  water  to  wash  my  face  when  people  do  not  get 
enough  fuel  even  to  bake  their  rotis  ?  Is  it  not  a 
matter  of  shame  then  that  you  should  give  me  warm 
water  with  which  to  wash  my  face  ?  I  can  understand 
your  making  hot  water  for  my  bath.  But  this,  for 
washing  my  face,  goes  beyond  my  ken.  Beware  from 
henceforth,  and  be  careful.  That’s  all  I  have  to  say.” 

From  his  stern  refusal  to  use  warm  water  for  his 
face,  one  can  understand  how  intensely  Bapuji  feels 
for  the  poor.  His  face  expressed  deep  pain  as  he 
uttered  the  above  words. 

This  painful  episode  happened  just  before  we 
went  to  sleep.  I  felt  nonplussed  and  grieved.  My 
mind  continued  for  some  time  to  dwell  upon  Bapuji’s 
advice  to  digest  this  lesson  by  meditating  on  it. 

Amaki, 

30-l-’47 

Prayers  and  his  Bengali  lessons  as  usual.  Then 
he  went  through  my  diary. 

Two  ladies  have  come  down  from  Bombay  to 
present  with  their  own  hands  Rs.  1250  to  Bapuji.  He 
handed  over  the  amount  to  me  and  asked  me  to  give 
it  to  Satisbabu  and  get  a  receipt  for  the  same. 

At  7  a.m.  he  drank  some  fruit  juice,  and  then 
rested  for  ten  minutes.  We  left  Jayag  at  7.30  and 
came  here  at  8.45.  Immediately  upon  our  arrival 
Bapuji  wrote  a  letter  to  Panditji.  The  letter  looked 
very  neat  as  the  text  was  written  in  English,  but  he 


154 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


was  addressed  at  the  top  in  Hindi  script  as  fa.* 
Malatididi  i.e.  Malatidevi  Ghaudhari  was  one  of  the 
visitors  we  had.  Finishing  his  massage  and  bath, 
Bapuji  had  his  meal  at  10  a.m.,  consisting  of  a  vege¬ 
table,  two  khakharas ,  milk  and  one  grapefruit.  There 
is  no  milk  now  for  his  evening  meal.  I  am  worried 
and  I  don’t  know  how  I  shall  manage  to  get  some. 
Mr.  Horace  Alexander  came  up  in  the  afternoon. 
Bapuji  talked  with  him  alone  for  an  hour  while  he 
continued  spinning  all  the  while.  Then  came  Jamal 
Saheb  who  has  set  up  a  cottage  at  a  cost  of  Rs.  250. 
He  took  us  to  see  it.  On  our  return,  Bapuji  com¬ 
mented,  “It  is  nothing  but  a  pataro\  to  use  our  Kathia- 
wadi  colloquial  term.  When  we  were  half-way  on 
our  route  here,  it  suddenly  struck  me  that  I  had 
forgotten  a  small  handkerchief  of  Bapuji’s.  So  I  ran 
back  to  fetch  it. 

We  have  put  up  today  with  a  Kayastha.J  Here 
there  are  542  caste-Hindus,  1954  Muslims,  26  weavers 
(Harijan-Hindus)  and  75  persons  of  other  com¬ 
munities.  There  are  5  Bhangi  (Harijan)  cottages  also. 
Our  host  is  Yashodakumar  De.  From  nowhere  could 
milk  be  procured  for  Bapuji’s  evening  meal,  even  after 
a  long  search  for  it.  So,  at  last,  I  had  to  report  the 
matter  to  Bapuji.  But  he  was  undisturbed  and  said, 
“Why  do  you  worry?  Cocoanut  milk  will  serve  quite 
as  well  as  goat’s  milk.  And  as  for  ghee  from  goat’s 
milk,  we’ll  substitute  fresh  cocoanut  oil  instead.” 


*Chi.  is  a  short  form  of  Chiranjiva ,  meaning  ‘live  long’.  This 
is  a  blessing  for  long  life  addressed  to  a  youngster, 
f  A  large,  strong  and  closed  box  f 
l  A  member  of  a  Hindu  caste  of  that  name 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


155 


So  I  prepared  8  oz.  of  cocoanut  milk  in  place  of 
the  8  oz.  of  goat’s  milk.  However,  it  turned  out  to  be 
indigestible,  and  Bapuji  suffered  from  an  attack  of 
diarrhoea.  By  evening  his  increasing  weakness  alarmed 
me.  He  perspired  heavily,  clutched  his  head  and  felt 
dizzy.  I  called  out  to  Nirmalda  to  send  for  Dr.  Sushila- 
bahen,  as  I  would  be  taken  for  a  fool  if  his  health 
took  a  turn  for  the  worse.  Dr.  Sushilabahen  had  left 
just  before  the  prayers. 

Bapuji  awoke  from  his  stupor  as  I  was  handing  the 
note  (for Dr.  Sushilabahen)  to  Nirmalda.  “Manudi!”, 
he  called  out  in  an  irritated  tone.  “Why  did  you  call 
Nirmalda?  I  don’t  like  it.  But,  for  your  tender 
age,  I  forgive  you.  All  the  same,  at  a  time  like  this,  I 
expect  you  to  do  nothing  else  but  fervently  chant  God’s 
name.  I,  for  one,  was  certainly  taking  His  name  all 
the  while.  And  I  would  have  been  very  happy  indeed, 
if  you  too  had  begun  chanting  the  Name  instead  of 
calling  for  Nirmaida’s  help.  Now  don’t  tell  Sushila 
anything  about  this  or  send  for  her.  My  only  true 
and  never-failing  physician  is  God.  If,  and  as  long  as 
He  wishes  to  get  His  work  done  through  me,  He  will 
let  me  live;  then  He  will  whisk  me  away.” 

God  be  thanked!  He  saved  me  from  a  blunder! 

I  really  think  that  God  never  fails  to  rush  to  the 
rescue  of  the  man  of  faith.  What  a  sore  test  it  was 
forme!  Hardly  had  the  words, ‘now  don’t  call  Sushila’ 
escaped  Bapuji’s  lips,  when  I  snatched  away  my  note 
from  Nirmaida’s  hands. 

All  this  took  place  before  Bapuji’s  very  eyes.  So 
from  what  he  saw  as  he  lay  in  his  bed,  he  sized  up 
the  situation  and  exclaimed,  “So  you  had  already 
written  to  Sushila!”  I  had  to  reply  in  the  affirmative. 


156 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


“It  was  God  alone  who  saved  us  both  today,” 
said  Bapuji  much  relieved.  “Sushila  would  certainly 
have  run  down  here  immediately  on  getting  your  note, 
but  that  would  have  only  hurt  me,  and  made  me  angi\ 
with  you  and  myself.  Both  of  us  were  put  to  a  test 
today.  Rest  assured  that  I  am  never  going  to  die  of  any 
illness  if  the  potent  charm  of  God’s  name  permeates 
my  heart.  This  law  stands  for  all,  not  for  me  alone. 
Man  has  but  to  suffer  the  consequences  of  the  mistakes 
he  commits.  So,  to  the  last  breath  oi  life,  must  the 
chanting  of  God’s  name  continue  in  the  heart.  There 
is  an  apt  example  of  it  given  in  the  Ramayana.  Sita 
presented  a  valuable  pearl  necklace  to  Hanuman. 
But  he  broke  each  and  every  pearl  to  pieces  to  find 
out  if  the  name  of  Rama  was  inscribed  within.  A 
precious  pearl  was  only  trash  to  him  otherwise.  That 
was  his  intense  absorption  in  the  name  of  Rama.  W  hv 
should  we  question  whether  or  not  this  incident  did 
actually  happen  as  related  ?  What  matters  to  us  is  the 
moral  it  conveys.  We  may  not  perhaps  be  able  to 
build  a  body  like  Samson’s  or  Hanuman’s,  but  we 
can  certainly  make  our  soul  as  strong  and  indomit¬ 
able.  M  an  can,  if  he  wills,  achieve  the  spnitual  status 
of  Hanuman.  And  if  he  can’t,  it  s  quite  enough  if 
he  only  strives  to  do  so.  Does  not  Mother  Gita  en¬ 
join,  ‘Man  has  but  to  make  the  attempt  and  leave  the 
fruit  thereof  to  God’?  In  that  spirit  we  all — andyou 
and  I  every  one  — must  try  our  best,  ‘act  well  our 
part’  and  trust  to  God  for  the  rest.  And  now,  I 
believe,  you  have  understood  my  trend  of  thinking 
with  regard  to  my  own  illness  or  yours  or  anybody 
else’s  for  that  matter.” 

With  that  he  returned  to  another  topic.  “It  is 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


157 


good  for  you  also,  to  know  what  I  said  about  Brahma- 
charya  to.  .  .  .  There  are  people,5'  I  told  him,  “who 
refuse  to  touch  woman  as  they  think  it  sinful  to  do 
so.  They  are  afraid  that  their  passions  may  be  roused 
by  a  mere  touch  of  a  woman’s  body.  I  won’t  call 
such  a  man  a  Brahmachari  at  all,  even  though  he  may 
have  been  physically  chaste.  And  don’t  assume  that 
a  man  is  free  of  passion  simply  because  he  has  grown 
old.  He  does  not  indulge  in  the  sex  act  only  as  the 
physical  energy  to  do  so  has  left  him  and  not  because 
he  has  gone  beyond  the  urge  of  passion.  Till  the  last 
beat  of  the  heart,  the  mind,  the  seat  of  all  desire,  knows 
no  aging.  Some  of  my  friends  do  indeed  differ  from  me 
in  this  matter.  But  on  the  basis  of  countless  experi¬ 
ments  and  experiences,  I  claim  that  among  them  all, 
I  am  a  true  Brahmachari.  How  can  he  have  a  disease 
who  is  above  passion  of  any  sort?  Any  such  suffering 
from  a  disease  is  out  of  the  question  for  him.  Those  who 
have  tried  to  make  me  change  my  view  are  them¬ 
selves  suffering  from  some  ailment  or  other.  How  can 
his  passion  be  aroused  by  a  woman’s  touch  when  he 
considers  all  women  as  his  mothers,  sisters  or  daugh¬ 
ters!  Let  the  most  beautiful  damsel  on  earth  face 
him,  he  will  still  remain  passionless.  All  the  same,  I 
always  say  that  my  death  alone  will  prove  whether 
my  claim  is  true  or  false.  No  man  can  be  judged  rightly 
until  he  dies,  for  he  is  liable  to  fall  at  any  time.  Such  is 
the  frailty  of  the  mind.  That  is  why  I  asked  .  .  . 
to  take  me  for  a  hypocrite  and  the  most  wicked  man 
on  earth  like  Ravana  if  I  happen  to  die  of  any  disease. 
But  if  I  leave  the  world  with  the  name  of  Rama  on 
my  lips,  only  then  am  I  a  true  Brahmachari,  a  real 
Mahatma.” 

In  a  lucid,  ceaseless  flow  of  speech  Bapuji  thus 


158 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


affirmed  his  unbounded  faith  in  Ramanama.  Every 
word  that  he  uttered  came  from  the  depth  of  his  heart. 

‘How  God  saved  me  in  the  nick  of  time!5  was  all 
that  revolved  in  my  mind  from  this  episode.  I  now 
realized  more  than  ever  before  that  we  would  neither 
understand  nor  appreciate  Bapuji  fully  merely  by 
pressing  his  legs,  or  serving  him  otherwise  or  by 
preparing  food  for  him.  It  is  only  incidents  such  as  this 
which  draw  him  out  and  reveal  him  in  his  true  glory. 
And  then  only  do  we  feel  ‘here  is  the  real  Bapu!’  And 
how  good  God  is  to  me !  He  has  given  me  the  golden 
opportunity  of  being  near  one  who  is  the  Supreme 
Spirit  personified,  as  described  in  the  Bhagavad- 
gita. 

Bapuji  reverted  to  his  pet  subject  of  Ramanama 
even  in  a  letter  he  wrote  at  night  to  an  ailing  sister: 
‘‘There  is  only  one  remedy  on  earth  which  never 
fails;  and  that  is  Ramanama.  Of  course  the  person 
who  takes  it  has  to  keep  to  the  regimen,  i.e.  observance 
of  the  laws  of  morality  etc.  But  alas!  many  of  us  do  not 
use  that  sovereign  remedy!” 

By  night  time  Bapuji  was  his  normal  self;  he  talk¬ 
ed  to  Mr.  hi  or  ace  Alexander  for  a  fairly  long  time. 

When  he  left,  Bapuji  alluded  to  that  cottage  of 
Rs.  250  in  a  chat  with  the  press  reporters.  “It’s  not  a 
cottage;  it  is  a  huge  box  or  vault  without  either 
proper  ventilation  or  sunshine.  Make  huts  from 
cocoanut  leaves, —  it  is  a  matter  of  Rs.  25  only — and; 
the  whole  question  is  solved !  Are  you  prepared  to  give 
me  a  contract  for  the  amount?  I  am  sure  I  will  even! 
be  able  to  earn  a  good  commission  for  myself  from 
it.” 

The  jest  raised  loud  laughter  from  the  press¬ 
men. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


159 

Bapuji  lay  down  on  his  bed  at  10  p.m.  as  usual. 
I  rubbed  oil  on  his  head  and  pressed  his  legs.  And 
now  I  shall  finish  my  diary,  a  part  of  which  was 
already  written  in  the  afternoon.  It  is  now  10.30  p.m. 

When  I  lay  down  to  sleep,  Bapuji’s  talk  recurred 
in  my  mind  and  I  thought,  £what  a  lofty  concept  of 
Brahmacharya  Bapuji  had  even  when  he  included  it 
among  the  vows  of  the  Ashramites!  The  spiritual  ideal 
which  he  cherished  has  now  taken  concrete  shape 
and  I  see  it  before  my  eyes.5 

By  being  a  ‘mother5  to  a  little  girl  like  myself; 
Bapuji  is  moulding  me  in  a  variety  of  ways. 

Navagram, 

31-l-547 

Prayers  and  then  his  signature  on  my  diary  as 
usual. 

In  order  to  get  first-hand  information  of  the  tangl¬ 
ed  situation  and  the  oppression  inflicted  in  Bihar. 
Bapuji  had  sent  for  £a  man  on  the  spot5  from  the  ad¬ 
ministration.  So  Jadubhai  Sahai  has  come  here. 
Hunarbhai  attends  to  Bapuji’s  post  in  the  Urdu 
script.  Bapu  suggested  the  formation  of  a  Commission 
in  Bihar  but  it  seems  ...  is  not  enthusiastic  over  the 
idea.  As  Bapu  had  stretched  himself  and  was  having 
the  mud-packs,  Mr.  Horace  Alexander  came  up 
again.  They  had  long  talks  on  spiritual  matters  as  well 
as  on  present-day  trends  and  activities. 

There  was  a  ladies5  meeting  in  the  afternoon.  One 
of  them  asked  Bapu  what  a  woman,  whose  husband 
had  turned  a  recluse,  should  do.  Bapuji  said,  “That 
woman  should  lead  a  very  virtuous  and  chaste  life. 
She  should  not  hoard  anything  but  only  keep  that 
which  was  absolutely  necessary.  It  is  wrong  to  as¬ 
sume  that  a  person  is  a  true  hermit  only  when  he 


160 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


wears  an  ochre  robe.  If  the  desolate  woman  is  at  a  loss 
to  know  what  to  do,  she  could  take  to  spinning.  I 
have  called  the  spinning  wheel  the  Kamadhenu. 

She  could  also  chant  God’s  name  as  she  spins.  Ihis 
type  of  renunciation  will  perhaps  surpass  that  ot  her 
husband.  She  could  occupy  herself  in  constant  bene¬ 
volent  service,  such  as  sweeping  the  village  streets, 
giving  bath  to  dirty  children  etc.  There  ought  to  be 
a  proverb  in  Bengali  similar  to  ‘Idle  hands  are  the 
devil’s  workshop’.  If  we  sit  idly,  doing  nothing,  a 
thousand  unhealthy  thoughts  may  surge  m  our  mind. 
So  one  should  never  be  without  some  sort  of  work 
at  all  times.  This  is  the  best  solution  for  the  pro- 

blem.” 

Bapuji  ate  nothing  at  all  in  the  evening  except 
an  oz.  of  gur.  He  also  took  some  honey  in  warm  water. 

Amishapada, 

l-2-’47 

Prayers,  dictation  of  letters  and  his  Bengali  lesson 
as  usual.  Bapuji  asked  me  to  use  the  Gujarati  word 
rojanishi  or  nityanondh  for  the  English  word  diary  ,  as 
I  write  my  entries  wholly  in  Gujarati.  My  diary  of 
yesterday  did  not  show  the  correct  sequence  of  events. 
Bapuji  remarked,  “If  we  keep  to  the  chronological 
order  of  events  when  writing  the  diary,  it  would  be 
easy,  later  on,  to  refer  to  a  past  event  or  find  out  when 
a  particular  talk  took  place,  without  the  need  to 
hunt  for  it.  So  be  careful,  in  future,  to  observe  that 

order.” 

“And  don’t  let  this  diary  get  into  the  hands  of  any 
and  every  person”,  he  added.  Of  course,  there  is 


*A  cow  of  plenty,  supposed  to  fulfil  all  desires 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


161 

nothing  private  or  secret  about  us,  but  unscrupulous 
pei  sons  can  make  capital  out  of  the  diary  by  distorting 
it.  This  diary  will  prove  very  valuable  to  you  in 
future.  Jayasukhlal,  too,  will  appreciate  it.  The  diary 
of  my  stay  in  the  Aga  Khan  Palace  kept  by  Sushila  has 
turned  out  to  be,  I  think,  one  of  permanent  value 
and  historic  interest.  Your  diary  also  will  be  an  equally 
pi  ecious  document.  That  is  why  I  give  it  importance 
and  pay  attention  to  it.  You  are  to  preserve  it  carefully 
or  send  it  to  Jayasukhlal.  And  do  another  thing 
also.  Show  it  to  Pyarelal.  He  can  improve  the  lan¬ 
guage  etc.  Where  have  I  the  time  to  go  into  it 
deeply?  But  I  am  sure  you  will  gain  and  not  lose 
anything  by  sending  it  to  Pyarelal.  He  is  a  scholar 
and  understands  me  quite  well.  Besides,  he  will  have 
some  idea  of  my  work  here.” 

“But  I  may  have  written  much  that  is  pure  non¬ 
sense;  and  will  he  not  laugh  at  me  for  it,  if  I  send  the 
diary  to  him?”  I  protested. 

“Why  should  we  bother  about  the  good  opinion 
of  other  people?”  rejoined  Bapuji.  “And  even  if  he 
laughs  at  you,  you  will  learn  through  his  corrections. 
Why  should  we  anticipate  other  people’s  remarks  for 
or  against  us?  God  will  do  as  He  pleases.  We  have 
but  to  do  our  duty.  If  we  cease  to  make  any  attempt 
at  all  for  feai  of  taking  a  false  step,  we  can  never 
make  an^  headway.  So  we  must  cultivate  courage 
enough  to  appeal  as  we  are.  If,  in  doing  so,  people 
say  some  hard  things  about  us  which  can,  however, 
lead  to  our  improvement,  we  should  welcome  such 
criticism.  A  mere  child  sometimes  teaches  wisdom  to 
a  man  known  for  his  greatness  that  his  whole  life 
is  changed.  This,  I  say,  from  my  personal  experience. 

L-l  1 


162 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


So  we  must  cultivate  an  eagerness  to  learn  from  others 

whatever  they  can  teach  us. 

We  left  Navagram  at  7-30  a.m.  and  reached  here 

at  "  P^arelalji  came  from  his  village  when  it  was 
meal-time  for  Bapuji.  He  had  brought  khakharas  made 

by  himself  for  Bapu,  who  took  two  of  them,  some  vege¬ 
table  milk  and  a  small  piece  of  sandesh.  He  ha  coc 
nut  water  at  2  p.m.  and  milk  with  8  dates  in  ie 

eVCI1Our  host  here  is  Krishna  Mohan  Chatterjee. 

In  his  prayer-meeting  today,  Bapuji  gave  a 
beautiful  definition  of  Islam.  The  attendance  o  ot 
Hindus  and  Muslims  was  very  large,  and  the  noise 
and  bustle  was  great.  Bapuji  delivered  his  discourse 

after  silence  prevailed. 

A  Maulvi  Saheb  had  asserted,  “Gandhyi  has  no 
right  whatever  to  expound  the  laws  of  Islam.  e 
had  moreover  strongly  objected  to  BapuJ1  s  W  e  - 
ing  together  Rama,  a  human  king,  and  Rahim  o 
Khuda.  Bapuji  in  reply  said,  “This  to  my  mind  is  a 
very  narrow,  short-sighted  view  of  religion.  No  icli 
eion  — Islam,  Hinduism  or  Zoroastrianism— is  meant 
fo  be  kept  in  watertight  compartments.  Every  human 
being  has  the  right  to  study  the  principles  and  idea  s 
of  each  religion  and  then  adopt  only  those  which 
he  thinks  best  and  reject  others.  It  is  because  I  am 

a  student  of  Islam  that  I  say  so.” 

There  is  happy  news  from  Suslnlabahen  s  vi  - 
lage  Ghangergaon.  She  has  won  the  love  and  esteem  ot 
many  Muslim  men  and  women  by  her  medical 
treatment  and  other  sincere  services.  She  wants  to 
leave  for  Sevagram,  but  the  local  people  do  no 
want  to  let  her  go.  They  are  so  pleased  with  her 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


163 


service  and  her  elevating  company  that  many  of  them 
are  voluntarily  returning  to  the  owners  the  property 
they  had  looted.  What  a  great  change  of  heart  this 
means ! 

Bapuji  remarked,  “I  for  one  would  advise  the 
Government  to  stop  dragging  to  law-courts  those  who 
had  looted  property  during  the  communal  frenzy.  If, 
in  its  stead,  the  military  and  the  people  turn  their 
energies  to  the  type  of  service  rendered  by  Sushila- 
bahen,  real  and  lasting  peace  will  be  established.” 

A  question  was  put  to  Bapuji  to  explain  his 
theory  of  trusteeship  of  property.  Bapuji  answered, 
“All  wealth  that  is,  or  exists,  belongs  to  God,  to 
Khuda.  Man  has  got  whatever  he  possesses  from  that 
Omnipotent  Power.  So  there  is  nothing  like  personal 
ownership  of  property.  Whatever  he  has,  has  been 
entrusted  to  him  by  God  for  the  service  of  the  people. 
Any  one,  who  holds  more  property  than  he  actually 
needs,  is  a  trustee  of  that  excess  property.  This 
excess  is  meant  for  service  of  the  poor  and  the  down¬ 
trodden  among  his  fellowmen.  If  we  have  faith  in 
God,  we  will  always  find  that  He  is  assuredly  All- 
powerful  and  will  give  us  what  we  need.  He  never 
hoards  anything.  Man,  too,  must  take  only  what  he 
requires  for  the  day  and  must  not  store  anything  for 
future  use.  If  we  assimilate  this  truth,  I  for  one  would 
consider  it  trusteeship  even  in  the  legal  sense  of  the 
term.  And  then  there  will  be  no  occasion  for  either 
robbery  or  exploitation.” 

Bapuji  appears  every  time  in  a  different  form, 
as  the  Gita  says.  Put  any  question  to  him  and  we 
will  always  have  something  fresh  to  learn  from  his 
inexhaustible  store  of  wisdom.  It  is,  like  the  treasury 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


164 

of  Kuber,*  always  available.  What  you  can  draw 
out  from  Bapu  depends  wholly  upon  the  capacity  o 
the  person  questioning  him. 

Dashagharia, 

2-2-’47 

\ 

Prayers,  his  Bengali  lesson  and  the  honeyed  warm 
water  according  to  routine.  But  my  diary  could  not  be 
read  to  him  as  he  was  engaged  in  a  talk  with  Pyare- 

lalii.  . 

Then  he  endorsed  a  check  for  Rs.  10,000/-  sent  by 

the  Maharaja  Saheb  of  Morabi  and  wrote  to  him 

a  card  of  thanks  for  the  gift.  He  then  lay  down  to  rest 

after  having  a  glass  of  fruit  juice.  As  I  pressed  his 

legs  for  quite  a  long  time,  our  departure  was  delayed. 

We  started  at  7-35  a.m.  for  this  village.  Saw  the 
ruins  of  two  houses.  They  were  splendid  buildings 
which  have  been  entirely  razed  to  the  ground  and 
murders  have  been  perpetrated  there. 

In  his  talk  with  .  .  .  Bapuji  said,  “No  worker 
is  to  come  to  see  me  without  urgent  cause  or  without 
my  sending  for  him.  Therein  lies  the  good  not  only 
of  myself  and  this  sacrifice  but  also  of  the  worker 
himself.  Every  one  must  use  his  brains  and  act  accord¬ 
ingly.’5 

Massage  and  bath  as  usual.  For  his  meal  he  had 
two  khakharas ,  8  oz.  of  milk,  a  little  condensed  cocoa- 
nut  oil  and  one  grapefruit.  There  are  251  Hindus 
and  800  Muslims  here. 

After  a  talk  with  Abdulla  Saheb  (S.P.)  in  the 
evening,  Bapuji  began  his  silence. 

♦Treasurer  of  Lord  Indra’s  countless  and  inexhaustible 

wealth 


the  fiery  ordeal 


165 

In  the  evening  he  took  milk,  one  banana  and 
some  puffed-rice  grains  and  at  night  1  oz.  of  gur.  As 
silence  had  already  begun  before  nightfall,  there 
were  no  visitors. 

Shadurkhil, 

3-2-’47 

Immediately  after  the  daily  prayers,  Bapuji  wrote 
a  letter  to  Jawaharlalji.  Then  as  he  was  sipping  his 
honey  and  water,  I  read  out  my  diary  to  him,  but 
he  could  not  sign  it  in  Dashagharia.  As  I  had  put  it 
below  some  books,  he  could  not  find  it  when  he 
wanted  to  sign  it. 

At  7-35  a.m.  we  left  Dashagharia.  We  halted  at 
the  garden-homes  of  Kshemanath  Chaudhari  and 
Habibullah.  We  are  the  guests  of  a  Kayastha, 
Yashodapal. 

His  routine  was  followed  as  usual  on  arrival 
here.  After  taking  his  bath  he  had  his  meal:  five 
almonds,  five  cashewnuts,  and  some  sandesh  which  our 
host  had  prepared  for  him.  The  people  here  feel  happy 
when  Bapuji  takes  even  a  small  bit  of  food  which  they 
have  made. 

There  are  271  Hindus  and  1212  Muslims  here. 
Nothing  to-  note  down  today  as  it  is  Bapujfs  day  of 
silence.  A  depressing  loneliness  fills  the  air  when  he 
maintains  silence.  In  the  evening  we  visited  a  primary 
school.  On  returning,  Bapuji  had  only  8  oz.  of 
milk  and  ten  dates;  nothing  more.  There  was  a  good 
attendance  at  the  evening  prayer  meeting. 

Shadurkhil, 

4-2-’47 

It  has  now  been  decided  that  we  should  halt  for 
two  days  instead  of  one  wherever  Bapuji  observes 


166 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


his  day  of  silence,  as  the  local  people  have  no  chance 
otherwise  to  benefit  by  his  stay  with  them.  So  we  are 
to  stay  on,  and  I  had  practically  nothing  to  do  this 

morning.  We  went  for  a  stroll  instead,  exactly  at 

usual  time  of  starting,  i.e.  at  7-35  a.m.  On  e  y 
called  on  a  Muslim  lawyer  at  hvs  home.  I  went  in¬ 
side  to  meet  the  ladies.  They  expressed  a  desire  to 
see  Bapuji,  and  I  brought  him  in.  We  returned  from 
our  walk  at  8-30  a.m.  I  washed  his  feet  massaged 
him  and  attended  on  him  while  he  had  his  bath. 
When  I  was  washing  his  feet,  Bapuji  asked  me 
write  down  from  henceforth  verses  from  the  Gita.  He 
signed  some  letters  while  I  was  washing  his  feet  Giving 
his  views  on  basic  education  to  .  .  .  he  said,  l  e 
student  of  basic  education  should  build  a  strong  mid 
healthy  body.  He  must  learn  how  to  make  pufte 
rice,  flattened  rice,  to  extract  oil  from  cocoanuts  an 
make  the  residue  useful,  and  also  how  to  cook.  He 
must  so  control  his  temper  that  he  can  mingle  easily 
and  lovingly  with  all,  and  at  the  same  time  o  serve 
truth  in  speech  and  act.  He  must  pic  up  ® 
Devanagari  script  and  Hindi,  Gujarati  and  Benga  l 

languages.  Nearly  all  the  visitors  today  were  Muslims 

and  mainly  government  officials  at  that. 

The  evening  prayer-meeting  was  held  today  m 
the  open  space  within  the  garden-house  of  a  Muslim. 
When  Nirmalda  was  translating  Bapuji.s  speech, 
Bapuji  wrote  me  a  chit,  “Go  inside  to  visit  the  ladies, 
so  that  extra  time  after  the  prayers  may  not  _  be 
wasted  in  the  call.”  So  I  went  to  them  and  recited 
auzubillah  at  their  request.  A  girl  said  m  contempt, 
“We  consider  it  a  sin  even  to  talk  with  a  Hindu. 
“It  was  because  you  pressed  me  that  I  sang  the 
verse  from  the  Koran,”  I  replied  quietly.  “What  I  want 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


167 


to  know  is  your  way  of  reciting.  Show  it  to  me  please. 
I  am  here  as  a  student  eager  to  learn  from  you.” 
These  conciliatory  words  had  an  immediate  effect 
on  an  old  woman.  She  scolded  the  girl  and  even  recited 
a  short  verse  from  the  Koran. 

One  thing  is  certain.  The  air  is  full  of  poison. 
In  the  name  of  religion,  learned  fanatics  are  thus 
misleading  the  simple  gullible  masses  and  becom¬ 
ing  Satan’s  henchmen. 

I  gave  Bapuji  an  account  of  what  had  happened, 
when  the  prayers  ended.  He  remarked,  “That’s  just 
why  I  assert  that  excessive  book-learning  has  only 
bred  learned  stupidity  and  want  of  real  wisdom. 
There  are  two  expressions,  ca  wise  man’  and  ‘a 
wiseacre’,  to  connote  real  wisdom  or  learned  folly  in 
a  man.  So  this  senseless  book-learning  has  simply 
ruined  us.” 

Our  prayer-meeting  was  held  in  the  compound 
of  the  chief  leader  of  Shadurkhil,  Salimulla  Saheb 
and  Ramadhuna  was  enthusiastically  sung  by  all 
present,  the  rhythm  was  maintained  by  clapping 
the  hands.  Even  a  welcome  address  in  Bengali  was 
given  to  Bapuji  with  due  ceremony. 

He  replied,  “I  have  come  here  to  capture  your 
hearts  and  then  make  them  one.  Nothing  will  end 
well  as  long  as  true  unity  is  not  established.  Grovel¬ 
ling  in  slavery  will  be  our  unhappy  lot  till  then.  But 
we  must  accept  no  other  slavery  than  that  of  the 
Almighty  God,  who  is  the  same  one  whatever  the  name 
by  which  He  is  known.  It  is  a  misconception  to  think 
that  I  put  Khuda  on  a  par  with  Rama  who  was  after 
all  a  human  being.  The  Rama  whom  I  adore  is  God 
Himself.  He  always  was,  is  now  and  will*  be  for  ever. 
Neither  is  there  any  birth  nor  death  for  Him,  nor 


168 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 

was  He  ever  made  or  created  by  anyone  else.  So  let 
us  learn  to  honour  Him  by  an  unprejudiced  study  o 
different  religions.  I  have  Muslim  friends  bearing  t  e 
names  Rahim  and  Karim.  If  I  call  those  human  indi¬ 
viduals  by  their  names,  do  I  thereby  consider  those 
human  beings  to  be  the  same  as  God  ?  And  will  you  say 
it  is  a  crime  to  call  them  by  their  names?  I  do  not 
believe  in  returning  hatred  for  hatred.  Be  certain 
that  nothing  will  succeed  without  establishing  fra¬ 
ternal  accord  between  the  communities. 

CCI  need  no  pressure  from  any  one  to  go  to  Bihar. 

I  will  go  to  any  place  where  I  feel  I  shall  be  able  to 
render  the  best  service  to  the  country.  And  that  is 
the  very  reason  why  I  am  here  for  the  present. 

Bapuji  took  no  milk  but  only  2  oz.  of  gur  in  the 
evening.  Lay  down  to  sleep  at  10  p.m.,  and  I  too 
within  five  or  six  minutes  more. 

Shrinagar, 

5-2-’47 

The  daily  routine,  including  prayers,  was  fol¬ 
lowed.  As  I  had  a  severe  cold  with  fever,  Bapuji  made 
me  go  to  sleep  and  attended  to  the  post  himself.  I 
was  awakened  quite  late,  at  6-30  a.m. 

We  left  Shadurkhil  at  7-35  as  usual.  Vinabahen 
Das  and  her  co-workers  had  made  splendid  prepa¬ 
rations  for  our  stay.  She  is  the  worker  in  charge  of 
the  village.  We  reached  here  at  8-35.  The  ground  in 
front  of  the  entrance  door  was  decorated  by  a  beauti¬ 
ful  multi-coloured  design  drawn  with  stone-aust. 
We  are  staying  with  a  tanti  i.e.  a  weaver.  In  the  Octo¬ 
ber  riots,  he  was  robbed  of  all  he  had.  I  washed 
Bapuji’s  feet  and  massaged  him.  He  dozed  ofl  for 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


169 

20  minutes  during  the  massage,  and  had  a  short  nap 
during  his  bath  also. 

Vinadi  had  a  thermometer.  Holding  it  in  her 
hand  she  came  to  me  when  I  was  waiting  upon 
Bapuji  at  his  meal  and  practically  commanded  me 
to  take  my  temperature  in  Bapuji’s  presence.  It  was 
104°.  Bapuji  was  very  much  displeased  to  see  me  so  ill. 

I  had  thought  I  would  finish  all  my  work  quick¬ 
ly  and  then  rest.  But  Vinadi  refused  to  fall  in  with  my 
plan.  She  brought  my  condition  to  Bapuji’s  notice 
in  the  above  manner,  and  he  was  irritated  and  un- 
happy.  “You  wouldn’t  have  been  in  this  plight,”  he 
said,  “if  you  had  entrusted  Devabhai  or  Nirmalda 
with  all  your  morning  work  and  gone  to  bed.  This 
is  very  bad.  It  can  even  be  called  infatuation  in  a 
subtle  form.  I  would  have  been  really  pleased  if  you 
had  been  humble  enough  to  take  rest.  I  have  often 
rebuked  you  for  not  looking  after  your  health.  When 
you  are  at  some  work,  you  neglect  yourself.  For  this, 
how  often  have  I  scolded  you  to  draw  so  much  as 
tears  from  you  in  the  Aga  Khan  Palace !  And  I  shall 
have  to  do  the  same  today.  We  must  give  up  work 
without  fail  the  moment  we  feel  the  slightest  fatigue. 
You  are  a  daily  witness  of  how  I  manage  to  snatch 
rest  for  myself  even  though,  there  is  endless  work  for 
me  to  do.  How  can  I  be  of  service,  if  I  took  no  rest? 
He  who  desires  to  serve  others  must  first  learn  to  serve 
himself.” 

After  two  hours’  rest  my  fever  was  gone.  I  even 
attended  prayers  as  my  temperature  had  then  come 
down  to  99.4°.  Bapuji  was  put  to  practically  no  in¬ 
convenience  because  Vinadi  helped  me  a  good  deal. 

Something  like  a  pandal  was  erected  around 
Bapuji’s  seat  in  the  prayer  meeting.  There  was  a 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


170 

ceiling  to  it  as  well.  The  meeting  was  very  crowded, 
but  orderly  and  quiet.  Bapuji  first  of  all  expressed 
himself  strongly  against  any  decoration,  for  that,  he 
said,  only  meant  waste  of  energy  and  waste  of  money, 
and  was  unnecessary  in  a  place  of  worship.  A  raised 
seat  to  enable  Bapu  and  the  audience  to  see  one  an¬ 
other,  and  a  soft  gadi  for  him  to  sit  upon,  so  that  he 
might  not  get  tired,  were  all  that  were  necessary. 
Anything  beyond  this,  by  way  of  decoration,  he  for- 
bade  strictly. 

In  his  prayer-speech  Bapuji  dwelt  upon  the 
weapon  of  non-violence: 

“Those  (Ministers  of  the  State)  who  will  have  to  defend 
our  freedom  in  future,  should  never  think  of  killing  their 
opponents  but  should  give  up  their  own  lives  to  defend  it 

_ if  need  be.  I  care  not  a  fig  for  what  the  Britisher  states  or 

omits  to  state  regarding  our  Swaraj.  Swaraj  can  be  won 
by  none  but  ourselves.  For  that  very  reason,  when  Jawahar- 
lalji  and  others  took  the  reins  of  government  in  their  hands, 

I  told  them,  ‘From  now  on  you  have  to  wear  a  crown  of 
thorns.’  Our  aim  is  to  win  complete  independence  for 
India  and  we  will  never  rest  till  that  is  gained.  But  if  any 
one  cherishes  the  fond  hope  of  driving  out  the  Englishman 
by  the  power  of  the  sword,  then,  I  say,  he  is  labouring  under 
a  delusion.  The  British  nation  is  never  afraid  of  an  appeal 
to  arms.  That  nation  has  marvellous  powers  of  tenacity, 
perseverance  and  courage.  So  it  will  never  yield  to  the  pres¬ 
sure  of  an  armed  conflict.  But  if,  in  answer  to  the  lives  it 
takes,  we  refuse  to  retaliate  and  offer  in  return  many  more  of 
our  own  lives,  the  British  Government  is  certain  to  go  down 
under  that  courage  of  non-violence,  and  will  then  pack  up 
and  quit.  I  know  not  of  any  power  stronger  than  that  of 
true  non-violence.  I,  for  one,  am  thoroughly  convinced  that 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


171 


the  reason  for  our  incapacity  to  win  complete  freedom  as  yet, 
lies  in  our  own  defective  practice  of  non-violence,  and  not 
because  it  is  itself  ineffectual  as  a  weapon.  Be  that  as  it  may. 
One  thing  is  certain.  The  acceptance,  by  the  representatives 
of  the  British  Government  of  the  draft  document  that  we  had 
drawn  up,  is  due  to  nothing  else  than  the  might  of  non¬ 
violence,  which  we  have  so  far  attempted  to  cultivate. 

If  we  go  into  the  effects  of  the  World  War,  we  shall  find 
that  even  the  victorious  Allies  have  gained  nothing.  Any 
gain  to  the  enemies  is  then  out  of  the  question.  Innumera- 
able  persons  have  been  merely  slaughtered  and,  worse  than 
that,  the  world  is  reduced  to  a  plight  in  which  it  is  half-dead 
for  want  of  food  and  raiment.  I  have  no  hesitation  in  saying 
that,  setting  aside  all  doubts  about  the  results,  we  must  hones¬ 
tly  and  sincerely  adopt  non-violence  as  a  policy,  if  not  as  a 
creed.  Our  welfare  lies,  I  assert,  in  entire  reliance  on  the 
power  of  self-confidence  which  we  gain  through  non¬ 
violence.” 

Referring  then  to  the  use  of  the  English  language 
Eapuji  continued,  “English  education  has  quite  starv¬ 
ed  our  intellect  of  true  knowledge  and  completely- 
crippled  us.  I,  for  one,  wish  that  our  students  be 
taught  many  well-developed  regional  languages  we 
have.  If  only  we  are  after  it  in  right  earnest  and  give 
up  our  fondness  for  English,  we  can  rapidly  .train 
our  nation  to  the  duties  and  responsibilities  of  true 
citizenship.” 

I  came  back  to  our  homestead,  even  as  Bapu- 
ji’s  speech  was  being  translated,  prepared  milk  and  an 
apple  for  Bapuji  and  lay  down,  as  I  was  again  run¬ 
ning  a  temperature.  I  got  up,  however,  at  8.30  p.m., 
made  Bapuji5 s  bed  and  completed  my  own  work. 
Then  I  rubbed  him  with  oil,  pressed  his  legs  and 
again  went  to  bed  as  soon  as  I  could. 


172 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


Bapuji,  it  seems,  did  not  approve  of  my  conti¬ 
nuing  to  work  with  fever.  But  without  making  an  ado 
I  finished  my  work  quietly  and  went  to  sleep.  To¬ 
day’s  diary  was  written  on  6-2-’47. 

Dharampur, 
6-2-’47,  Thursday 

I  got  up  for  prayers  as  usual.  Though  Bapuji  did 
remark  that  I  had  fever  all  the  night,  I  felt  refreshed 
and  so  was  up  betimes.  But  there  was  a  slip  in  the  reci¬ 
tation  of  the  Bhagavadgita.  I  recited  today  the  chap¬ 
ter  that  should  have  been  recited  tomorrow  (Fri¬ 
day).  Bapuji  corrected  me.  “Your  miss  today  shows 
that  you  are  ill.  And  yet  I  do  not  let  you  get  any 
rest  nor  do  you  take  it  on  your  own.”  So,  after  giving 
him  warm  water  and  fruit-juice  I  lay  down  again. 
In  a  letter  to  ...  he  wrote,  “Let  the  League 
(Muslim  League)  and  the  princes  do  what  they  like. 
The  Congress  has,  in  my  opinion,  nothing  new  to  do. 
My  views  on  clothing  and  food  are  clear  and  defi¬ 
nite.” 

At  7.30  a.m.  we  started  from  Shrinagar,  halted 
on  the  way  at  Sikandar  Junia’s  garden-home.  I  had 
gone  inside  to  meet  the  ladies.  On  our  arrival  here 
the  usual  order  of  massage,  bath  etc.,  was  followed. 
Bapu  took  five  almonds,  five  cashewnuts,  vegetable, 
fruit  and  milk  for  his  meal.  I  felt  restored  after  the 
night’s  rest  and  hence  tackled  all  my  usual  work.  But 
since,  in  the  afternoon  my  temperature  rose  to  104°, 
I  slept  beside  Bapuji  for  an  hour  from  4  to  5  p.m. 
I  woke  up  at  prayer  time  (at  5)  and  went  with  him 
to  attend  the  prayers  as  usual. 

Bapuji  took  absolutely  nothing  except  some  gur 
for  his  evening  meal.  I  was  thus  free  from  work  after 


the  fiery  ordeal 


173 

piayers.  He  told  me  later  on  at  night,  “Just  in  order 
to  let  you  go  to  sleep  early,  I  ate  only  gur  today.” 
Only  at  night  did  I  come  to  know  that  Bapuji,  in  his 
loving  anxiety  for  my  health,  has  abstained  even  from 
1  ood,  so  that  I  could  get  to  sleep  early.  I  had  till 
then  imagined  that  he  had  not  taken  anything  due 
probably  to  a  slight  indisposition.  How  anxious  he  is 
about  other  people’s  welfare!  When  I  learnt  the  real 
reason  for  his  abstinence  from  food,  I  was  really  griev¬ 
ed  at  the  thought  that  that  was  how  I  was  punished 
for  neglecting  my  health. 

Bapuji  spoke  on  cleanliness  in  his  prayer  discourse 
today. 

“Cleanliness,”  he  declared,  “is  my  principal  and 
favourite  subject.  I  dislike  many  things  Western,  but 
I  have  learnt  specially  from  the  West  to  train  myself 
to  observe  the  laws  of  cleanliness.  People  here  carry 
home  the  same  water  for  drinking  purposes  from  the 
ponds  which  they  contaminate  by  washing  their 
clothes  in  them.  This  is  a  painful  sight  to  me.  With¬ 
out  the  least  constraint  people  spit  saliva  and  the  red 
juice  of  betel  leaves  anywhere  and  everywhere.  This 
sort  of  behaviour  has  become  quite  natural  to  us.  But 
it  is  to  the  shame  of  our  country,  and  it  pains  me 
deeply.  Such  uncleanliness  is  the  cause  of  many 
diseases  that  are  rampant  in  our  land.  It  is  a  wonder 
to  me  how  we  manage  to  live  at  all  in  the  midst  of 
filth  and  disease.  The  death-rate  here  is  the  highest 
in  the  world.  The  most  abject  poverty  should  not 
stand  in  the  way  of  our  observing  the  habits  of 
cleanliness.  If  we  give  up  our  sloth,  we  can  soon  turn 
our  land  into  a  heaven.  There  is  a  proverb  in  English, 
‘Cleanliness  is  next  to  godliness’.  If  we  meditate  on 
the  laws  of  outward  cleanliness  and  practise  them, 


174 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 

the  urge  to  be  internally  clean  will  follow  automati- 
cally.”  ,  ... 

In  order  to  be  in  touch  with  the  activities  oi  Bapu- 
ji,  many  more  press  reporters  are  requesting  him  to. 
let  them  accompany  him.  “Press  reporters  have  inva¬ 
ded  this  region,”  he  remarked.  “No  convenience  is  pro¬ 
vided  here  for  them.  If  they  put  on  airs  and  graces  in 
their  dress  and  manners,  I  would  summarily  ask  them 
to  go  away.  But  they  are  spending  their  days  living 
in  a  very  simple  style,  quite  in  conformity  with  vil¬ 
lage  ways.  All  the  same,  my  advice  to  the  press, 
owners  is  that  they  should  not  undertake  the  un¬ 
necessary  expense  of  sending  reporters  here.  If  they 
have  such  an  excess  of  money  that  they  can  waste  it 
on  sending  reporters  here,  let  them  rather  send  that 
excess  amount  to  me.  The  hardship  here  is  so  great 
that  all  of  them  cannot  stand  it.” 

A  question  was  put  to  Bapuji:  “You  had  stated  in 
1925  that  you  for  one  would  like  to  introduce  a  clause 
in  our  Constitution  granting  suffrage  in  Independent 
India  only  to  those  who  put  in  some  physical  labour 
by  way  of  service  to  the  country.  Do  you  still  hold 

that  view?” 

Bapuji  replied,  “I  shall  continue  to  adhere  to 
that  view  till  the  end  of  my  life.  Since  man  has  been 
made  by  God,  it  is  man’s  duty  to  eat  nothing  without 
labouring  for  it.  The  rich  should  give  away  all  their 
wealth  and  work  shoulder  to  shoulder  with  the  less; 
endowed  in  order  to  eat  their  daily  bread.  It  is  a 
sin  to  accumulate  wealth  to  oneself  by  the  use  of  one  s 
intelligence  and  then,  rolling  in  wealth,  lead  a  life  of 
idle  ease  and  luxury.” 

Referring  to  the  princes  he  said,  “There  are  only 
600  princes  while  their  subjects  are  crores  in  number. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


175 


I  appeal  to  the  princes  to  cease  to  be  princes  and 
be  servants  of  their  subjects.  Therein  lies  their  own 
good  as  well  as  that  of  all  the  others.” 

Discussions  on  various  topics  thus  crop  up  before 
Bapuji  and  it  is  a  treat  to  listen  to  and  learn  from 
his  considered  opinions  on  them,  as  they  are  based  on 
his  rich  experience,  and  the  knowledge  gained  thereby. 

Prasadpur, 

7-2-’47 

Bapuji  got  up  as  usual  at  3-30  a.m.  Signed  my 
diary  for  both  the  days  after  the  prayers  were  over, 
and  then  did  his  Bengali  lesson.  Nirmalda  read  out 
a  letter  in  Bengali  from  a  Bengali  girl. 

Left  Dharampur  at  7-35  a.m.  and  came  here  at 
8-15.  We  are  staying  with  Dr.  Upendrakumar  Mazum- 
dar. 

My  health  is  now  all  right  and  Bapuji  has  al¬ 
lowed  me  to  resume  all  my  duties.  So,  on  reaching 
here  I  massaged  him  and  attended  on  him  during 
his  bath.  When  he  came  out,  Sushilabahen  Pai 
arrived.  She  had  carefully  set  apart  some  almonds  and 
cashewnuts  for  Bapuji’s  use;  she  gave  them  to  him. 
He  had  some  vegetable,  milk,  a  few  grains  of  puffed 
rice  and  two  cashewnuts  but  none  of  the  khakharas . 
The  rest  of  the  programme  went  on  regularly. 

Visitors  came  pouring  in  during  the  afternoon. 
Among  them  were  Rajkumar  Chakravarty,  Satish- 
babu,  Manoranjanbabu,  Charuda,  Ma  (Hemapra- 
bhadevi),  Zaman  Saheb  with  a  police  officer,  Col. 
Shahnawaz  of  the  I.  N.  A.,  Haridasbhai,  Belabahen 
(Netaji  Subhash  Bose’s  niece)  and  Niranjansing  Gil. 

While  lying  down  with  the  mud-packs  on  Bapu¬ 
ji  fell  asleep  for  a  short  time.  When  he  woke  up  he 


176  THE  lonely  pilgrim 

related  to  me  a  dream  which  he  had.  .  .  .  You  felt 
it  your  duty  to  save  that  dying  man  and  so  you  went 
to  him.  But  before  you  could  reach  him,  you  saw 
that  he  was  off  his  mental  balance.  So  you  gave  him 
two  sound  slaps  and  he  approached  you  to  beg  to 
forgive  him.  As  you  came  to  tell  me  about  it  and  I 
was  about  to  pat  you  on  the  back  for  your  grit?  mY 
eyes  opened  and  the  dream  vanished.”  Bapuji  conti¬ 
nued,  “I  want  to  mould  you  into  that  Manu  of  my 
dream.  Let  years,  let  ages  pass  before  my  dream  is 
realized;  but  that  does  not  concern  us.  If  we  but  conti¬ 
nue  to  do  our  duty 'till  we  die,  we  shall  finish  in  t  e 
next  birth  what  is  left  incomplete  in  this.  But  for 
such  achievement  illness  is  banned  entirely.  Firmness 
along  with  humility  and  courtesy  in  speech  and  simple 
self-controlled  living  are  the  essentials.  And  fear? 
No  quarter  should  be  given  to  it  at  all.  You  are 
certain  to  rise  very  high  spiritually  if  you  observe  only 
these  principles.” 

While  he  was  still  talking  to  me,  revered  Thakkar- 
bapa  arrived  with  a  big  bundle  of  post.  Bapuji  discus¬ 
sed  some  things  with  him  for  a  while.  Today’s  letters 
are  full  of  spice. 

In  his  interview  with  Zaman  Saheb  this  evening, 
Bapuji  expressed  himself  on  the  prevalent  practice  of 
giving  free  food  to  displaced  persons  from  the  chari¬ 
table  granary.  “Every  human  being,”  he  said,  “should 
earn  his  bread  by  labouring  for  it.  The  Government 
should  therefore  start  public  works  such  as  road- 
repairs,  village-reconstruction,  industries  on  a  co¬ 
operative  basis  etc.,  to  provide  them  with  gainful 
employment.  Only  those  of  the  displaced  persons 
who  co-operate  with  the  Government  in  such  welfare 
w  ork  have  the  right  to  take  the  full  ration  of  food. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


111 

Only  here  in  our  country  entirely  free  feeding  is  in 
vogue.  They  call  it  Charity5  but  I  am  opposed  to 
such  interpretation  of  the  term.  It  has,  in  my  opinion, 
moially  and  materially,  a  very  baneful  effect  on  every¬ 
body,  if  able-bodied  persons  do  not  lift  a  finger  for 
their  own  maintenance,  and  yet  expect  free  lodging 
and  boarding  from  the  Government.  All  the  same,  I 
have  profound  sympathy  for  displaced  persons  who  are 
helpless  and  shelterless.  Speculation  is  not  the  right 
way  to  earn  money.  I  have  absolutely  no  doubt  that 
our  land  will  be  transformed  into  a  heaven,  if  every 
one  of  us  earned  his  bread  by  the  sweat  of  his  brow. 
Poets,  doctors,  writers,  teachers,  lawyers,  businessmen, 
if  they,  one  and  all,  but  did  their  duty  unselfishly  and 
employed  their  knowledge  and  skill  in  the  service  of 
thennasses,  each  in  his  own  way,  our  dear  motherland 
would  rise  to  the  top  rank  in  the  world.” 

As .  Bapuji  was  expounding  his  views  in  this 
emphatic  manner,  I  wondered  how  he  expected  such 
n  high  moral  standard  from  our  fallen  countrymen. 
So  I  asked  him  what  basis  he  had  for  such  high  expec¬ 
tations.  “Why,”  he  replied,  “if  only  one  man  begins 
to  do  what  I  suggested,  it  will  have  its  effect  inevitably 
on  others.  We  should  never  give  in  to  despair  but 
persevere  in  our  efforts,  against  all  odds.  Besides, 
if  there  are  selfish  men  in  India,  there  are  not  a  mere 
few  sefless  and  noble  sons  of  the  soil.  And  you  know 
I  am  a  student  of  the  Bhagavadgita.  Tt  is  ours/  says 
Mother  Gita,  ‘to  do  our  part  of  the  work  in  all  fervour 
and  honesty  and  without  any  craving  for  results.’  ” 

Though  it  is  Bapuji’s  rule  to  spin  in  the  afternoon, 
he  could  not  do  so  till  after  the  evening  prayers.  There 
was  a  rush  of  visitors  who  took  up  his  entire  time  prior 
to  it.  He  listened  to  the  papers  as  he  spun.  I  read 


L-12 


178 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 

the  post  to  him  and  washed  his  feet.  Then  he  lay 
down  on  the  bed.  He  was  thoroughly  fagged  out 
5  minutes  had  barely  elapsed  before  he  was  sound 
asleep,  even  as  I  was  pressing  his  feet. 

Then  I  wrote  my  letters  home,  copied  those  of 
Bapuii,  wrote  up  my  diary  and  spun  for  a  time.  It 
was  the  late  hour  of  12-30  p.m.  by  then,  but  I  felt  at 
ease  as  I  had  finished  ail  my  work  that  had  been  m 

arrears. 

Nandigram, 

8-2-’47 

When  I  went  to  bed  late  at  night,  Bapuji  was 
sound  asleep,  but  he  woke  up  at  1.30  a.m.,  roused 
me  and  asked  me  to  light  a  lamp.  “I  was  already 
awake,”  he  explained,  and  started  chanting  Rama- 
nama.  But  there  is  a  load  on  my  mind  of  a  letter  I 
have  to  write  to  the  Magistrate,  and  Thakkarbapa 
brought  a  heap  of  letters  yesterday  which  I  have  yet 
to  read.  So,  bring  me  the  light.”  I  gave  it  and 
the  papers  etc.,  to  him.  “But  why  not  continue  to 
Jelax  on  the  bed  and  dictate  letters  to  me?”  I 
suggested. 

Bapuji  dismissed  my  plea.  “Yes,  you  can  do  that 
when  you  are  my  age,  seventy-seven,”  he  rejoined. 
“For  the  present  do  as  I  say  and  get  back  to  bed. 

Without  a  word  in  reply,  I  went  to  bed.  “What 
a  heinous  criminal  I  should  be,  if  I  wake  up  a  girl 
at  the  dead  of  night,  even  when  I  can’t  give  her  rest 
by  day  and  she  has  to  work  non-stop  till  late  at  night !” 
he  thought  aloud. 

I  could  immediately  see  that  Bapuji  was  not 
unaware  of  my  late  hours  last  night.  But  the  fault 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


179 

was  mine  and  I  had  nothing  more  to  say.  Only.  I 
inwardly  marvelled  at  Bapuji’s  circumspection. 

He  carried  on  with  his  work  from  1.30  to  3.15 
a.m.  I  was  then  awakened  again  and  asked  to  brush 
my  teeth.  Then  the  prayers,  during  which  a  sweet 
hymn  was  sung  by  Belabahen. 

After  that,  he  had  honey  in  warm  water  and  did 
his  Bengali  lesson.  Next  relaxation,  during  which  I 
pressed  his  legs  for  a  while.  After  a  bare  15  minutes5 
rest  Bapuji  was  up  again  and  had  fruit  juice.  Then 
it  was  time  for  us  to  start. 

He  has  been  working  since  1.30  a.m.  and  says 
he  does  not  feel  tired.  “Had  you  gone  to  sleep  early 
last  night,  I  would  have  made  you  do  all  that  work. 
But  how  can  I  ask  you  to  wake  up  again  at  1.30  a.m. 
and  do  my  work,  when  you  went  to  bed  so  late?”  he 
asked.  I  too  realized  my  error  and  regretted  it. 

Leaving  Prasadpur  at  7-30  a.m.  we  reached 
here  at  8-25.  After  sending  a  Tetter  to  Thakkarbapa, 
Bapuji  looked  at  the  rest  of  the  post  and  I  prepared 
for  his  massage.  He  was  asleep  for  full  50  minutes 
during  it,  it  was  all  to  the  good,  as  he  had  kept  awake 
almost  the  whole  of  the  previous  night. 

He  cut  down  his  midday  meal  to  2  khakharas , 
6  oz.  of  milk,  and  a  little  vegetable. 

Surendraji  Ghosh,  Lavanyaprabhabahen,  Suche- 
tabahen  Kripalani,  A/Tanoranjanbabu  and  other  wor¬ 
kers  from  Midnapore  interviewed  him  when  he  was 
spinning. 

Answering  several  (Questions  put  to  him  Bapuji 
said  today,  “I  have  certainly  come  across  stories  of 
the  boycott  of  Hindus  by  Muslims.  But  it  is  not  the 
same  story  everywhere.  Hindus  moreover  own  more 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


ipo 

lands  than  they  can  till  themselves.  Such  a  situa¬ 
tion  is  fraught  with  serious  harm  to  both  communi¬ 
ties.  I  advise  the  Hindus  to  keep  for  themselves  only 
as  much  land  as  they  can  actually  cultivate,  and 
give  away  the  rest.  We  ought  not  to  possess  anything, 
big  or  small,  in  excess  of  our  needs.  Our  nation 
must  strive  to  achieve  this  ideal. 

“I  have  been  in  these  parts  for  the  last  two  or  three 
months.  I  have  observed  distinct  signs  of  Hindus  now 
venturing  to  come  forward  and  showing  their  courage 
to  some  degree,  or  to  put  it  better,  they  have  shed  off 
some  of  their  weakness.  So  also  the  Muslims,  whose 
attitude  has  undergone  a  perceptible  change.  Just  a 
few  days  back,  a  deity  was  re-installed  by  me  in  a 
temple  at  Bhatialpur  with  Pyarelal’s  efforts.  That  was 
the  very  place  where  many  temples  had  been  destroy¬ 
ed  only  a  little  earlier.  Not  only  did  the  Muslims 
there  attend  the  ceremony  but  they  promised  to  de¬ 
fend  the  temple,  if  need  be,  at  the  cost  of  their  lives. 
‘Before  anyone  can  touch  the  temple,  he  shad  have  to 
trample  on  our  corpses5,  they  vowed.  It  is  by  no 
means  a  small  thing  that  the  communal  winds  should 
change  so  favourably  and  that  Muslims  themselves 
should  come  forward  to  take  such  a  solemn  oath.  On 
my  way  here  I  have  noted  some  other  pointers  also, 
big  and  small,  which  give  one  definite  reasons  for 
satisfaction  that  some  positive  work  has  been  done. 
If  my  heart  is  pure  and  if  I  practise  what  I  preach, 
then  this  work  is  certain  to  last.  It  is  my  firm  belief 
that  the  private  life  of  a  worker  should  be  in  har¬ 
mony  with  his  public  service  and  should  be  equally 
pure  and  transparent.  Every  good  deed  makes  a  man 
immortal.  That  a  man’s  work  stops  or  ends  with  his 
life  is  a  mistaken  idea.  So  if  my  colleagues  and 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


181 


workers  lead  an  inner  and  outer  life  of  unsullied  purity, 
their  work  is  sure  to  give  them  credit;  if  they  don’t, 
the  people  will  automatically  dislodge  them  from 
their  posts.  This  is  not  my  law  but  the  law  of  the 
world.  If  there  is  even  a  trace  of  pride  or  hypocrisy 
in  a  public  worker,  his  fate  is  sealed.” 

The  evening  prayers  today  were  attended  by 
Sushilabahen  Pai  with  80  lady  companions  from  Kar- 
pada.  Sushilabahen  informed  us  that  many  of  them 
had  never  before  stepped  out  of  their  village.  They  all 
responded  to  the  Ramadhuna  very  sweetly. 

A  very  small  space,  hardly  big  enough  to  accom¬ 
modate  Bapuji  alone,  has  been  provided  us  in  this 
village.  All  the  rest  have  had  to  pitch  tents.  The 
scene  therefore  looks  like  the  encampment  of  a  big 
caravan,  because  the  fleet  of  the  press  reporters  and 
photographers  has  grown  quite  large  and  the  village 
people  too  have  joined  us.  A  forest  of  tents  has  sprung 
up  in  the  fields. 

After  coming  back  from  the  prayers  Bapuji  drank 
some  whey,  read  the  post  and  went  to  bed  after 
10  p.m.  Recalling  his  rebuke  of  yesterday,  I  too  went 
to  sleep  immediately  after  I  finished  rubbing  him 
with  oil  and  pressing  his  legs. 

Vijayanagar, 

9-2-’47 

Prayers  and  his  Bengali  lesson  as  usual;  and  then 
he  wrote  some  letters.  It  is  remarkable  that  women 
are  the  principal  workers  here.  These  women  came 
right  to  Nandigram,  singing  hymns  all  the  way,  to  es¬ 
cort  Bapu  to  their  village.  As  two  little  girls  from 
amongst  them  wanted  very  much  to  be  Bapuji’s 


182 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


‘sticks’,*  I  complied  with  their  request  and  arrived 
here  with  Nirmalda  by  a  short  cut. 

I  could  thus  arrange  everything  to  my  liking 
before  Bapuji  arrived.  Immediately  upon  his  ai rival, 

I  washed  his  feet  and  massaged  him  and  he  had  his 
bath  and  meal,  which  was  thus  finished  before 
10.30  a.m.  Today  was  the  earliest  of  all  the  meals  he 
ate  during  the  pilgrimage. 

Belabahen  left  us  from  here.  When  she  departed, 
she  promised  Bapuji  to  send  him  a  cheap  but  mira¬ 
culous  cure  for  Kishorlalkaka’s  asthma.  It  is  a  tried 
and  proven  remedy,”  she  affirmed.  But  Bapuji  did  not 
take  her  seriously  and  said  in  a  lighter  vein,  “Well! 
In  return,  I  promise  to  give  you  a  good  prize  if 
KishorlaPs  asthma  bids  him  a  final  adieu.” 

As  I  still  had  a  trace  of  my  cold,  Bapuji  made  me 
go  to  bed  in  the  afternoon  and  ordered  me  not  to  get 
up  till  he  told  me.  So  I  went  to  sleep,  but  when  my 
eyes  opened  I  found  that  Bapuji  had  already  set  up 
his  spinning  wheel  and  was  spinning.  I  was  cross 
with  him  and  said  rather  peevishly,  “Already  spin¬ 
ning!  Then  you  wouldn’t  have  awakened  me  if  I 
hadn’t  woken  up  myself!  I  never  imagined  that  you 
would  set  up  the  wheel  yourself,  and  wake  me  up  so 
late.” 

Bapuji  laughed  at  my  protest  and  answered, 
“How  can  you  imagine  the  joy  I  feel  in  doing  some 
work  myself?  As  it  is,  you  have  been  doing  a  good 
deal  of  my  work  and  will  go  on  doing  it.  But  whenever 

*Gandhiji,  while  walking,  used  to  put  his  hands  upon  the 
shoulders  of  two  youngsters  moving  on  both  of  his  sides.  This 
he  did  to  support  himself  in  his  movement.  The  youngsters, 
therefore,  came  to  be  known  in  his  group  as  sticks  ! 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


183 

I  get  a  chance  to  do  some  work  I  hail  the  oppor¬ 
tunity  and  simply  love  to  put  it  to  a  good  use.  Do 
you  want  to  realize  how  severe  and  exacting  I  can 
be?  Then  first  be  strong  and  hard  like  steel.  Does 
the  smith  ever  have  any  pity  for  the  piece  of  iron  which 
he  heats  red-hot  and  hammers  with  all  his  might? 
I  can  be  as  merciless. —  but  only  when  you  get  as  tough 
and  strong  as  steel.  Just  as  the  smith  forges  a  pretty 
shape  from  iron-scrap,  I,  too,  can  make  you  divinely 
beautiful  —  but  only  then.  So  you  can  rightly  aspire 
to  do  all  my  work  but  only  when  you  are  brimming 
over  with  health  and  spirits.” 

Then  he  began  to  dictate  the  remaining  letters. 
At  that  time  V a  1  i m a h a m m a d b h a i  of  Upaleta  (Sau- 
rashtra)  came  for  an  interview.  Bapuji  began  his 
silence  today  early  at  5.20,  even  before  the  prayers. 
So  only  his  written  speech  was  read  at  the  prayer¬ 
meeting  today.  It  answered  some  questions  put  to  him 
by  workers. 

One  of  them  was:  “After  spending  the  whole  life 
in  national  service,  some  workers  are  seized  with  a 
fondness  for  power.  How  then  is  one  to  maintain 
control  over  their  colleagues  and  assistants  ?  And  how 
can  an  institution  retain  its  democratic  character? 
Experience  shows  that  any  non-co-operation  with 
workers  is  not  feasible  since  it  only  adds  to  the  diffi¬ 
culties  in  carrying  out  the  work.” 

Bapuji  replied,  “Man  is  by  nature  fond  of  power; 
that  fondness  ends  only  with  his  death.  It  is  therefore 
difficult  for  others  to  check  the  public  servant  who  is 
power-mad.  One  of  the  many  reasons  for  this  pro¬ 
blem  is  the  possibility  of  others  also  possessing  the 
same  fault,  consciously  or  unconsciously.  Then  again 
there  is  literally  no  organization  in  the  world  which 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


184 

is  conducted  on  entirely  non-violent  lines.  Till  that  is 
done,  we  can  never  claim  a  wholly  democratic  cha¬ 
racter  for  any  institution  whatsoever.  No  democracy 
can  be  perfect  without  complete  non-violence  for  its 
basis.  If,  however,  the  object  is  selfless  and  the  me¬ 
thods  employed  clean,  non-co-operation  with  a 
worker  is  bound  to  succeed;  moreover,  it  can  never 
adversely  affect  the  institution  concerned.  In  the 
instance  cited,  failure  of  non-co-operation  may  be 
due  simply  to  lack  or  total  absence  of  true  non¬ 
violent  spirit.  It  is  my  experience  that  those  who  com¬ 
plain  against  other  people’s  craving  for  power  are 
themselves  suffering  from  the  same  malady.  The 
result  is  that  where  a  difference  arises  between  two 
rivals  having  the  same  nature,  none  of  them  is  satis¬ 
fied  if  that  defect  is  pointed  out  to  them  and  botn  the 
parties  are  infuriated. 

“It  will  be  a  sad  day  for  India  if  our  villagers  pick 
up  the  same  dirty  game  for  gaining  power  that  people 
in  the  towns  have.  If  workers  go  to  villages  to  grab 
power  for  themselves,  they  will  prove  to  be  hurdles, 
not  helps,  in  the  path  of  progress  by  the  villages.  I 
advise  a  village  worker  to  persevere  in  his  work  with¬ 
out  looking  for  results  and  accept  such  local  help  as 
he  can  get.  Our  work  can  never  suffer  if  we  are  not 
enamoured  of  power.  We,  the  city-dwellers,  supposed 
to  be  wise,  educated  and  enlightened,  have  committed 
the  heinous  crime  of  entirely  neglecting  the  villages  of 
India.  If  we  bear  that  in  mind  and  repent  sincerely 
for  our  sin,  we  shall  slowly  obtain  results.  I  have  been 
in  many  villages  and  have  always  found  at  least  one 
honest  worker  in  every  village.  That  shows  that  vill- 
lages,  basically,  still  retain  their  fundamental  good¬ 
ness.  But  we  have  not  humility  enough  to  detect  and 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


185 

acknowledge  what  is  good  in  the  villages.  One  who 
wants  to  do  some  useful  work  in  a  village  should  keep 
himself  aloof  from  the  local  partisan  groups.  He  must 
humbly  accept  any  help,  be  it  by  members  of  various 
parties  or  by  men  belonging  to  none.  Specially 
in  order  that  we  may  be  one  of  the  villagers  ourselves, 
I  have  placed  only  one  colleague  in  each  of  the  vil- 
lages  here.  In  cases  where  a  worker  does  not  know 
Bengali  I  have  given  him,  as  an  exception,  another 
worker  to  act  as  an  interpreter.  I  find  that  this  me¬ 
thod  gives  good  results.  We  have  the  bad  habit  of 
jumping  to  conclusions.  That  no  work  can  be  done  in 
a  village  without  help  from  outside  is  one  such  mis¬ 
taken  idea.  If  you  take  your  courage  in  your  hands 
and  start  work  with  whatever  local  help  you  can  get. 
you  are  sure  to  succeed.  And  even  in  the  case  of  fail- 
lure  we  shall  rise  as  a  nation,  if  we  learn  to  blame 
ourselves  for  it  and  not  some  one  else,  such  as  ‘the  other 
fellow  or  ‘the  rotten  times’.  I  am  absolutely  certain 
on  this  point.” 

Our  host  here  is  Jogeshchandra  Mazumdar. 
There  are  1269  Muslims  and  865  Hindus  here.  Many 
houses  have  been  burnt  and  even  money  has  been 
exacted  in  the  name  of  the  Muslim  League.  Almost 
all  the  Hindus  have  been  forcibly  converted.  Most  of 
them  are  tantis  (weavers) .  The  rich  higher  caste-Hindus 
have  vacated  the  village,  almost  to  the  last  person. 

In  his  midday  meal  Bapuji  had  a  handful  of 
puffed  rice,  5  almonds,  2  cashewnuts,  some  vegetable 
and  milk  8  oz.  Then  at  2  p.m.  he  had  the  water  of  two 
cocoanuts,  and  in  the  evening  before  the  prayers, 

8  oz.  of  milk  with  a  tablespoon  of  dry  date  powder. 
After  the  prayer-meeting  he  took  2  teaspoons  of 
honey  in  warm  water,  as  he  was  listening  to  the 


/ 

186 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


papers  being  read  aloud.  Had  a  stroll  of  about  2^ 
miles  in  the  evening.  At  9.45  Bapuji  retired  for  the 
night,  and  I  at  10.30  p.m. 


Vijayanagar, 
10-2-’47,  Monday 

I  had  nothing  particular  to  do  this  morning  as 
we  are  to  stay  here  for  2  days.  We  got  up  as  usual 
before  prayer  time,  brushed  our  teeth  and  prayed. 
Bapuji  then  did  his  Bengali  lesson.  As  it  was  his  day 
of  silence,  he  wrote  two  thought-provoking  letters  to 

...  and  .... 

As  I  am  still  not  free  of  my  cold,  Bapuji  wrote  on 
a  slip  of  paper: 

“You  ought  to  find  a  way  of  getting  rid  of  this 
running  nose  of  yours.  Ramanama  is  certainly  the 
sovereign  and  never-failing  remedy.  So  it  ought  to 
cure  you.  .  .  .  See!  You  have  to  admit  it.  If  you  wrap 
something  around  your  throat  and  chest,  I  think  it 
will  help.  Whether  it  helps  or  not,  it  is  certain  that 
one  of  the  rules  for  the  efficacy  of  Ramanama  is  that 
the  laws  of  nature  should  not  be  broken.  Think  over 
and  realize  the  full  significance  of  this  statement.” 

At  7.35  a.m.  sharp  we  went  out  for  a  stroll.  We 
were  going  towards  Gopinathpur,  but  even  after 
45  minutes5  walk,  there  was  no  sign  of  the  village. 
So  Bapuji  inquired  how  far  it  was.  He  was  informed 
that  it  would  take  about  15  minutes  more  to  reach 
the  place.  That  would  take  us  at  least  2  hours  to  get 
back  home.  “I  can  never  finish  my  pilgrimage  in  this 
desultory  way.  Everything  has  its  limit,55  he  remarked 
in  some  chagrin.  So  we  turned  back;  even  so,  it  was 
already  8.55,  when  we  returned  home.  Then  I  washed 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


187 


his  feet.  During  the  massage  Bapuji  had  a  nap  for 
30  minutes.  Today  is  his  day  of  silence;  the  outlook 
is  depressing  and  lonely. 

His  midday  meal  consisted  of  1  khakhara ,  some 
vegetable,  milk  8  oz.  and  1  grapefruit.  Then  cocoa- 
nut  water  in  the  afternoon.  He  was  engaged  in  reading 
and  writing  nearly  the  whole  day. 

Bapuji  was  asked,  “A  Muslim  merchant  here  used 
to  sell  his  goods  with  a  correct  balance  and  a  Hindu 
with  a  false  one.  Does  this  not  show  that  the  Mus¬ 
lim,  as  a  businessman,  is  honest  and  his  Hindu 
counterpart  dishonest?” 

He  replied,  “In  this  imperfect  world,  no  single 
community  is  comprised  of  only  honest  members, 
and  there  is  not  a  single  community,  which  is  com¬ 
prised  of  only  dishonest  members.  The  individual  — 
Hindu  or  Muslim  —  who  cheats  his  customers  this  way 
is  certainly  dishonest,  but  I  cannot  understand  how, 
on  that  account,  a  whole  community  can  be  indicted 
as  such.” 

“Noakhali  is  a  beautiful  land  with  inexhaustible 
natural  resources,  If  to  that  is  added  real  fraternal 
lbve  and  heart-to-heart  unity  between  Muslims  and 
Hindus,  I  would  hail  the  land  as  a  heaven  on  earth. 
But  at  present,  the  Hindus  are  still  mortally  afraid. 
The  condition  of  those  Hindus,  however,  who  have 
returned  here,  is  tolerably  happy,  as  I  am  told  by 
the  local  officers.  Many  of  my  Muslim  friends  say  that 
they  wish  the  Hindus  to  return  to  their  homes.  But 
where  is  the  necessary  provision  for  their  food  etc.? 
And  the  communal  atmosphere  is  still  not  as  clear  as 
I  wish  it  to  be.  Like  the  proverb  ‘The  wearer  alone 
knows  where  the  shoe  pinches’,  others  cannot  easily 
gauge  how  the  Hindus  feel.  They  would  be  at  ease 


183 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


and  the  atmosphere  would  become  clear,  only  when 
the  offenders  who  have  gone  underground  come  out 
into  the  open,  confess  their  crimes  and  do  something 
by  way  of  repentance.  Only  then  can  those  people 
who  are  now  terror-stricken  and  on  tenterhook  can 
enjoy  freedom  from  fear  and  peace  of  mind.  As  for 
myself,  I  have  come  here  to  see  if  my  non-violent 
methods  succeed  in  the  test  which  the  situation  here 
offers.  In  non-violence,  there  is  no  scope  for  failure. 
I  am  here  to  do  or  die.  There  is  no  other  course  open 
to  a  non-violent  person,  who  sincerely  longs  for  har¬ 
mony  between  both  the  communities  or  for  that  mat¬ 
ter  between  all  the  peoples  of  the  world.  For  me  at 
least  there  is  none.55 

He  took  only  one  ounce  of gur  in  the  evening. 

Two  local  women  workers  were  scalded  with  hot 
water.  I  was  going  to  take  vaseline  to  them,  when 
Bapuji  stopped  me.  ‘ ‘Where’s  the  sense  in  using  such 
a  medicine  in  a  village?  Ask  them  to  apply  a  thin 
layer  of  earth  on  their  legs  and  then  a  paste  of  lime 
and  oil,55  he  instructed  me,  and  added,  “if  local 
workers  use  well-known  and  costly  foreign  medi¬ 
cines  in  this  way,  how  will  it  affect  the  poor  masses 
of  our  villages  ?  Instead  of  gaining  anything  there¬ 
by,  they  will,  on  the  contrary,  develop  a  new  bad 
habit.  Have  not  tea  and  bidi*  and  even  fashionable 
cigarettes  penetrated  into  remote  villages  ?  And 
who  is  to  blame  for  it?  Not  villagers  but  townsmen, 
who  set  the  ball  of  fashion  rolling.55  And  really  those 
women  did  obtain  relief  from  this  cheap,  easy  to  hand 
remedy.  When  I  went  to  see  how  they  fared,  I  found 
them  much  better. 


*An  indigenous  cigarette. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL  189 

From  his  smallest  acts,  one  can  learn  lessons  of 
discrimination  as  regards  our  duties;  and  these  les- 
son>,  coming  from  his  rich  mine  of  wisdom,  are  not 
always  one  and  the  same  kind  but  full  of  variety. 

After  coming  back  from  those  injured  sisters,  I 
rubbed  oil  on  Bapuji’s  scalp,  pressed  his  legs,  wrote 
some  letters  and  went  to  bed. 

Haimachandi, 
ll-2-’47,  Tuesday 

Hardly  had  we  got  up  from  our  beds,  when 
Nirmalda  read  to  Bapuji  telegrams  from.  ...  He 
drafted  their  replies  immediately  after  prayers.  The 
oven  here  does  not  burn  quickly  as  there  is  much 
humidity  in  the  air.  So  his  warm  water  with  honey 
was  delayed  and  with  it  his  fruit  juice.  Our  pilgrimage 
started  onward  as  soon  as  the  juice  was  taken. 

Before  leaving  Vijayanagar  Bapuji  inspected  the 
latrines  and  the  general  sanitation  of  the  village.  He 
gave  some  instructions  to  improve  them,  but  on  the 
whole  he  was  satisfied. 

During  our  tramp,  he  repeated  to  Col.  Jivan- 
sinhaji  some  beautiful  maxims  of  the  Prophet  of 
Islam.  They  are  of  use  not  only  to  Muslims  but  to 
all  humanity  and  so  are  worth  quoting: 

1.  Rush  to  the  rescue  of  every  human  being,  be  he  a 
Muslim  or  not,  if  he  is  oppressed. 

2.  Whoever  commits  adultery,  theft,  drinks  intoxicants, 
robs  others  and  cheats  a  man  of  his  money  is  not  a  true 
Muslim;  is  less  than  a  man.  So  wake  up  man!  and  be 
alert. 

3.  He  who  has  control  over  his  mind,  his  feelings  etc.,  is 
the  greatest  of  conquerors. 


190 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


/ 

4.  God  drives  out  an  adulterer  from  His  presence.  Not  He, 
but  Satan  abides  with  him. 

5.  A  wicked  scholar  is  the  worst  man  on  earth  and  an  un¬ 
lettered  good  man  the  best. 

6.  That  man  is  a  perfect  believer  and  a  man  in  its  real 
sense,  who  never  inflicts  any  injury  upon  any  one  by 
word  or  deed. 

7.  God  smiles  upon  the  person  who  pities  His  creatures. 

8.  He  alone  deserves  to  be  called  a  man,  who  is  never 
treacherous  and  runs  to  the  aid  of  his  enemy,  if  he 
trusts  him. 

% 

9.  I  disclaim  that  person  as  mine,  who  tells  a  lie  or  breaks 
his  promise. 

10.  He  is  not  one  of  the  faithful  nor  even  a  man,  who  does 
not  wish  for  his  brother  what  he  desires  for  himself. 

11.  Who  labours  neither  for  himself  nor  for  others  receives 
not  God’s  grace. 

12.  Through  fasting  and  self-control,  my  followers  will  be¬ 
come  morally  and  physically  chaste. 

13.  Woman  is  the  other  half  of  man. 

14.  A  holy  woman  is  the  most  precious  and  the  noblest 
thing  on  earth. 

15.  He  alone  is  the  man  of  true  knowledge,  who  not  only 
knows  it  but  lives  up  to  it. 

16.  Don’t  thrash  women.  Don’t  cast  a  lustful  glance  at  them. 
Treat  all  women,  except  the  wife,  as  mothers,  sisters  or 
daughters.” 

Bapuji  went  on,  “Fortunately  many  such  very 
valuable  rules  of  conduct  and  ways  to  be  happy  are 
given  in  all  gospels.  If  we  ponder  over  them  and 
follow  them  in  our  daily  lives,  our  land  will  soon  be 
the  foremost  of  all  nations  which  are,  at  present,  consi¬ 
dered  advanced.” 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


191 


As  I  washed  his  feet  on  arrival  here,  Bapuji  told 
me,  “If  a  man  commits  these  sayings  of  the  Prophet 
to  memory,  meditates  upon  them  in  the  morning 
and  then  in  the  evening,  evaluates  his  good  and  bad 
deeds  of  the  day,  according  as  he  has  kept  to  these 
rules  or  broken  them,  then  he  is  sure  to  be  trans¬ 
formed  into  a  new  man  altogether  in  fifteen  days.” 

I  was  late  in  preparing  for  his  massage  today. 
Bapuji  utilized  that  time  in  writing  many  letters  in 
Gujarati.  There  is  no  convenience  provided  us  here 
except  a  bare  hut  and  I  had  to  do  everything  myself 
from  the  beginning.  For  almost  a  week  I  am  again 
having  fever  with  cold;  so  I  took  quinine  pills  given 
by  Nirmalda.  Leaving  aside  his  own  work,  he  helped 
me  with  mine.  Hunarbhai  cut  the  vegetable.  I  set 
the  cooker  to  boil  and  massaged  Bapuji.  We  are  doing 
all  the  work  ourselves  without  any  extraneous  aid. 
Nirmalda  is  a  high-grade  professor  in  the  Calcutta 
University,  but  without  any  false  sense  of  shame,  he 
sat  down  to  light  the  oven  himself.  Our  group  — 
or  shall  I  say,  ‘our  family’  ? — -is  thus  united  by  strong 
ties  of  love  and  harmony.  I  being  the  youngest  am 
the  most  favoured. 

Bapuji  is  afraid  that  I  shall  catch  pneumonia. 
He  warned  me,  “If  you  get  fever  today,  I  shall  have 
to  give  you  the  ‘wet-sheet  pack’.  At  one  time  there 
was  no  hope  of  Manilal’s  recovery.  So  I  took  the  risk 
of  the  wet-sheet  pack  experiment  and  he  was  cured. 
More  than  all  others  he  enjoys  perhaps  the  best  of 
health  now.  So  we  can’t  sit  idle  when  your  fever 
persists  like  this.  But  I  demurred. 

“You  promised  to  obey  me”,  countered  Bapuji 
and  quoted  a  Gujarati  proverb:  ‘Who  does  not  keep 
his  word,  is  worth  a  penny.’ 


192 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


Bapuji  has  a  knack  of  carrying  his  point  even  in 
small  matters  by  quoting  the  right  proverb.  And 
to  strengthen  his  plea  he  recalled  to  a  saying  (see 
maxim  No.  9,  on  page  190.)  of  the  Prophet  which 
he  had  made  me  meditate  upon  in  the  morning. 
That  was  the  most  splendid  lesson  I  learnt  today. 

In  the  morning  meal  he  had  2  khakharas ,  some 
vegetable  and  milk  8  oz.  After  serving  Bapuji  at  his 
meal  and  washing  the  clothes,  I  rubbed  ghee  on  his 
legs.  Bapuji  then  asked  me  to  go  to  sleep  forth¬ 
with.  He  laid  himself  down  only  when  he  made  sure 
that  I  had  applied  the  hot  indigenous  phlogistine 
on  my  chest  and  ribs  before  I  slept.  This  was  how  it 
was  made:  fine  sieved  earth-powder  was  thoroughly 
mixed  with  salt,  dried  ginger,  parsley  seed  ( ajajna ) 
and  turmeric.  Some  water  was  then  added  to  make 
a  paste  of  the  mixture,  which  was  heated  and  applied 
warm.  Cotton  was  then  covered  on  the  sticky  paste. 
That  is  the  careful  and  loving  treatment  which 
Bapuji’s  patients  receive. 

Baba  and  Hemaprabhabahen  came  up  in  the 
evening. 

Slowly  and  steadily  I  worked  on  till  the  evening 
prayers.  When  I  went  to  attend  them,  I  had  a  feel¬ 
ing  of  a  rise  in  temperature,  but  I  rested  only  when, 
after  the  prayers,  I  gave  Bapuji  milk,  mixed  with 
an  ounce  of  dry-date  powder,  and  three  oranges.  Then 
I  stretched  myself  out  and  Bapuji  took  the  tempera¬ 
ture  which  was  105°.  I  had  a  wracking  headache 
too.  Nirmalda  had  hoped  that  I  would  have  no  fever 
today,  as  full  15  grains  of  quinine  had  gone  into  my 
stomach.  But  no.  It  did  make  its  unwanted  visit 
quite  punctually.  Baba,  Ma  (Hemaprabhabahen) 
and  others  were  all  sitting  by  me,  watching. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


193 


“So  you  are  again  lying  down  with  the  quiet, 
innocent  look  of  a  child  that  has  just  committed  a 
fault!55  remarked  Bapuji  laughing.  The  result  was  that 
I  had  to  accept  that  ‘wet-sheet  pack5  after  all.  But  it 
induced  long  and  sound  sleep.  My  eyes  opened  as 
late  as  12.30  at  night  and  I  found  myself  drenched 
all  over  in  profuse  perspiration.  The  papers  were 
read  to  Bapuji  by  Shailenbhai  and  then  Bapuji,  too, 
had  fallen  asleep.  He  woke  up  when  I  did,  at  12.30 
and  took  my  temperature,  which  had  now  come 
down  to  normal.  So  I  got  up,  tidied  Bapuji’s  bed, 
washed  his  feet,  pressed  his  legs,  rubbed  him  with 
oil  and  crushed  the  end  of  a  babul  tooth-stick  for  the 
next  morning.  Then  both  Bapuji  and  I  went  to  bed  at 
1  a.m.  Slept  soundly  and  at  one  stretch  till  it  was 
morning.  Only  when  Nirmalda  came  to  awaken  us, 

Bapuji  woke  up  himself  and  roused  me. 

,  .  / 

After  prayers,  Bapuji  explained  to  me  lovingly, 
like  a  mother,  things  a  teenage  girl  should  know.  As 
it  will  be  of  use  to  many  others  I  give  some  of  it 
below : 

“A  false  sense  of  modesty  spoils  the  health  of  our 
girls,  and  in  India  perhaps  more  than  anywhere  else. 
Women  forget,  or  they  are  never  taught  to  see,  the 
truth  that  today’s  girl  is  tomorrow’s  mother.  For 
this  sorry  state  of  affairs,  every  adult,  male  or  female, 
is  responsible.  It  is  woman  who  can  provide  the  coun¬ 
try  with  either  saints  and  great  men  or  thieves,  villains, 
murderers  etc.  ...  At  the  age  of  about  13  years, 
that  still  frolicking  and  gambolling  child  is  neither 
mature  enough  in  age  or  wisdom  and  requires  the 
utmost  love  and  care  from  parents.  That  is  principally 
the  mother’s  function  and  responsibility.  Instead  of 

L-13 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


194 

getting  this  special  love  she  receives  quite  the  opposite 
treatment  in  India.  When  a  girl  grows  to  that  age, 
she  feels  like  a  helpless  waif.  She  is  treated  as  if  she 
has  committed  some  crime  against  society.  She  is  for¬ 
bidden  to  stir  out  except  with  a  chaperon.  This  suspi¬ 
cious  attitude  has  a  very  harmful  effect  on  her  young 
impressionable  mind. 

“The  modern  dress  of  our  girls  has  done  an  equal 
amount  of  harm  to  her  physical  constitution.  Either 
she  wears,  of  her  own  choice,  or  she  is  made  to  wear, 
clothes  so  tight  that  the  very  sight  moves  me  to  pity 
them.  I  wonder  if  they  can  even  breathe  freely.  This 
craze  for  the  latest  fashion  has  played  havoc  amongst 
us.  What  a  pity  that  the  modern  girl  attaches  greater 
importance  to  following  the  code  of  fashion  than  to 
the  protection  of  her  health  and  strength!  All  this 
has  reduced  her  to  the  condition  of  a  delicate  doll.  If 
women  merely  attended  to  building  healthy  bodies, 
preserved  their  modesty  and  adopted  complete  simpli¬ 
city  and  purity  in  their  manners,  food,  behaviour 
and  activities,  dress,  reading  matter,  studies  and 
culture,  in  short,  in  all  their  activities,  living  simple 
lives  in  keeping  with  nature,  then,  I  am  sure,  our 
nation  will  produce  holy  and  brave  saints  like  Daya- 
nand  Saraswati  and  world-champion  wrestlers  like 
Gama.  Were  they  not  sons  of  our  womanhood?  But 
they  are  just  a  few  at  present  and  I  nurse  the  hope 
of  their  growing  to  as  many  as  the  stars  in  heaven. 
Certainly  the  menfolk  are  not  a  whit  less  responsible 
than  our  women  for  our  present  plight.  But  what  a 
great  difference  will  it  make,  even  if  only  one  of  the 
sexes  takes  it  into  its  head  that  this  wrong  attitude 
should  end  for  ever!  With  that  vision  always  before 
my  mind’s  eye,  I  happened  to  become  your  mother. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


195 

So  if  I  can  t  train  you  to  the  pattern  of  my  dream,  I 

shall,  consider  myself  as  one  who  has  no  right  to 
cherish  it. 

I  am  glad  that  you  have  been  staying  with  me 
and  have  shown  no  fear;  and  I  appreciate  and  fully 
realize  the  value  of  this.  Hence,  I  shall  certainly 
continue  to  train  you  as  long  as  you  are  in  my  charge. 
And  I  do  not  consider  that  is  a  waste  of  time.  Even 
if,  as  mother  to  you  alone,  l.e.  to  only  one  girl,  I  suc¬ 
ceed  in  bringing  you  up  to  be  a  noble  specimen  of 
womankind,  I  shall  present  to  the  world  a  model  of  an 
ideal  woman  and  have  the  satisfaction  of  having  thus 
served  the  many  millions  of  the  world’s  daughters.  And 
the  world  s  fathers  too  will  be  given  an  object 
lesson  through  me,  as  to  how  to  educate  their  daugh¬ 
ters,  by  being  mothers  to  them.  Besides,  when  a  man, 
in  order  to  satisfy  the  demand  of  his  conscience  — his 
innei  self  •,  sets  to  do  a  good  deed  in  spite  of  diffi¬ 
culties  and  criticism,  and  suffers  for  it,  he  begins  to 
care  less  and  less  for  the  world’s  opinion  for  or  against 
him.  And  he  is  quite  right  too  there.  The  inner  self 
is  akin  to  God  Himself.  Why  then  should  we  not  cheer¬ 
fully  suffer  hardships,  however  great,  in  order  to  attain 
that  better  self?  Why  should  we  dance  to  the  tune 
of  another’s  opinion  just  to  please  him?  There  is 
of  course  ample  scope  for  discrimination  and  restraint. 
It  is  hypocrisy  and  a  sheer  lie  for  a  man  to  believe 
that  he  can  improve  his  inner  self  by  taking  intoxi¬ 
cating  drinks  or  committing  adultery  and  refusing 
to  listen  to  wise  counsel.  That,  I  suppose,  needs  no 
further  clarification.  So,  it  is  the  first  and  foremost 
duty  of  a  man  to  satisfy  the  inner  self,  i.e.  to  follow 
its  dictates  with  the  utmost  sincerity  and  honesty  of 
feeling. 


196 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


“That’s  what  I  am  trying  to  do  here.  That  atti¬ 
tude  i.e.  honesty  to  one’s  self  I  consider  to  be  an 
indispensable  necessity  for  the  performance  of  this 
x  sacrifice.  I  want  to  test  myself  as  much  as  possible 
here,  so  that  I  may  be  both  examiner  and  exa¬ 
minee.  And  what  matters  it  even  if  I  fail  in  the 
test?  Success  or  failure  rests  with  God,  and  I  want 
none  but  Him  to  be  the  witness  of  my  trials  and  their 
results.  Why  should  we  worry  over  the  question  ol 
victory  or  defeat?  If  there  is  the  faintest,  trace  of 
insincerity  anywhere,  even  unconsciously,  in  me  or 
in  you,  the  world  will  at  once  detect  it.  This  is.  a 
unique  experiment  in  self-sacrifice.  I  am  undergoing 
austere  self-immolation,  in  order  to  create  fraterna 
love  by  winning  all  hearts.  There  is  no  place  here  for 
any  affectation  of  love.  If  there  is,  it  is  sure  to  come  out 
into  the  open,  and  the  world  will  then  run  me  down 
with  abuse  and  disgrace  me.  Even  then  both  the 
world  and  I  stand  to  gain  thereby.  I  gam  by  having 
a  ^ood  corrective.  The  world  will  find  out  that  their 
‘Mahatma’  was  a  hoax  and  will  think  twice  in  future 
before  giving  that  honorary  title  to  anyone.  The 
world  thus  gains  in  both  ways !  Either  I  am,  or .  I 
am  not,  a  real  Mahatma.  If  I  am,  the  world  can  gam 
by  learning  from  me  whatever  there  is  worth  learning. 
If  I  am  not,  the  world  will  be  wakeful  and  chaiy,  as 
I  have  already  said,  in  giving  anyone  such  a.  respect¬ 
ful  title.  I  am  trying  to  impress  upon,  you^this  simple 
truth  which  is  really  as  clear  as  daylight. 

In  this  way,  as  he  was  sipping  his  honey-water 
in  the  serene  quiet  of  the  small  hours  of  the  morning 
of  the  12th,  Bapuji  bared  his  heart  sincerely  and  frank¬ 
ly.  Every  sentence,  every  word  of  this  continuous 
stream  of  discourse  was  charged  with  love,  such  as 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


197 

only  a  mother  has.  And  the  same  serenity,  as  that  of 
the  quiet  stillness  of  the  morn,  spread  over  his  face, 
as  he  presented  to  my  mental  eyes  the  picture  of  his 
services  to  the  world’s  daughters  through  training 
me.  He  felt  himself  a  responsible  servant  of  woman¬ 
kind  in  the  cause  of  her  uplift. 

Kafilatali 

13-2-’47,  Wednesday 

As  I  wrote  up  my  diary  of  yesterday  it  includes 
what  Bapuji  told  me  while  taking  warm  water  after 
the  prayers.  I  finished  writing  yesterday’s  notes  early 
this  morning  when  he  was  reading  the  post,  after 
the  prayers. 

We  started  from  Haimchandi  at  7.30  a.m.  Hal¬ 
ted  for  a  while  at  the  quarters  of ‘The  Friends’  Unit’. 
They  are  doing  their  work  with  much  zeal.  Bapuji 
was  delighted  to  hear  of  it. 

I  am  now  completely  cured.  The  indigenous 
anti-phlogistine  —  the  paste  of  heated  earth  —  worked 
wonders  !  Only  a  day’s  application  was  enough  to  dry 
the  phlegm  and  cure  my  cough.  And  all  this  without 
the  cost  of  a  pie! 

On  our  way  here,  Bapuji  referred  to  my  recovery 
but  continued  chiefly  with  his  edifying  talk  of  the 
morning: 

“I  am  trying  to  mould  your  character;  whether 
it  will  bear  results  or  fail,  I  can’t  say  at  present.  When 
a  potter  pats  the  clay  into  the  form  of  a  baking  pan 
or  a  spherical  jar,  can  he  know  in  advance  whether 
it  will  break  or  have  a  crack?  He  goes  on  putting  clay 
vessels  of  various  artistic  shapes  into  the  kiln.  Some 
break,  some  have  a  slight  defect  and  others  turn  out 
well.  I  too  am  a  potter  with  a  different  clay  in  hand 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


198 

and  I  am  shaping  you  like  that  potter  who  hopes  for 
the  best  results.  If  my  vessel  has  a  crack  or  gets  broken 
in  the  process,  it  will  be  your  ill-luck  as  well  as  mine. 
But  neither  you  nor  I  can  do  anything  to  avert  the 
disaster.  So  we  should  never  be  worried  about  the 
result.  We  have  but  to  see,  like  the  potter,  that  the 
clay  is  of  a  high  quality,  smooth  and  pliant,  and  the 
vessel  patted  is  well-shaped  and  strong.  We  must 
leave  it  at  that;  for,  after  it  goes  into  the  kiln,  God  will 
look  after  it,  as  it  is  His  province  not  ours.  In  the 
same  way,  the  pre-requisites  for  our  sacrifice  here,  are 
truth,  purity,  total  absence  of  affectation  and  hypocrisy, 
every  action  after  grave  deliberation,  repeated  consul¬ 
tation  with  the  Inner  Voice,  behaviour  strained  through 
the  sieve  of  discrimination  and  total  indifference  as  to 
whether  it  will  please  or  offend  others.  If  I  have  that 
high-quality  clay  in  my  hands  —  and  I  believe  I  have  it 
—  I  shall  have  no  difficulty  at  all  in  moulding  you  into 
the  right  shape.  But  if  there  is  one  hard  particle, 
i.e.  if  you  have  even  a  slight  deficiency,  it  is  sure  to  come 
in  the  way  of  the  perfect  shape.  You  are  the  lump  of 
clay  and  I  the  potter.  It  is  because  I  have  praised  you 
in  my  letters  to  ...  ,  that  I  keep  on  trying  to 
make  you  always  vigilant.  You  can  ask  me  anything 
whatsoever  without  fear  of  a  rebuff.  To  fight  and 
brave  dangers  for  the  cause  of  Truth  is  to  me  nothing 
but  a  sport.  I  have  never  been  frightened  in  such 
battles.  God  has  always  sustained  me. 

“You  will  find,  if  you  think  back,  that  I  have  raised 
many  an  institution  and  then  brought  it  down  without 
the  least  compunction,  if  it  did  not  fulfil  my  ideals, 
e.g.  a  big  institution  like  the  Sabarmati  Ashram.  So, 
if  I  find  the  smallest  gravel  in  you,  my  clay,  I  will  lose 
no  time  in  breaking  up  my  jar,  just  as  the  potter 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


199 


does.  I  have  been  hammering  all  this  upon  your 
mind  from  the  morning,  in  order  that  you  may  be 
always  alert  and  on  guard.55 

This  warning  seemed  to  me  even  more  serious 
and  fraught  with  graver  undertones  than  his  talk  of 
the  morning,  though  that  was  serious  enough;  and  I 
wondered  if  my  stay  with  Bapu  was  not  as  difficult  as 
a  tight-rope  dance.  But  God  is  great!  He  always 
endows  me  with  the  strength  to  pass  through  Bapuji’s 
fiery  tests. 

Dr.  Sushilabahen,  who  was  at  the  Red  Cross 
Centre,  has  come  here  with  us.  She  is  proceeding  to 
Delhi  to  attend  a  meeting  of  the  Kasturba  Memorial 
Trust.  She  examined  Bapuji’s  blood-pressure.  It 
was  192/110. 

'yVe  came  here  at  7.30  a.m..  It  took  us  till  11 
a.m.  to  finish  his  massage,  bath  etc.  Then  his  meal 
of  two  khakharas ,  milk,  a  small  square-piece  of  sandesh 
and  one  grapefruit.  During  his  meal  he  finished  some 
letters  to  Delhi,  to  give  them  to  Sushilabahen  before 
she  left.  He  rested  from  12-30  to  1  p.m.  Then  spin¬ 
ning  and  dictation  of  letters  simultaneously.  2.30  p.m., 
cocoanut-water.  From  3-30  to  4  p.m.,  earth-packs 
both  on  the  head  and  the  stomach  this  time.  Though 
the  rush  of  visitors  continued,  he  snatched  a  ten-minute 
nap.  After  prayers,  a  steam-boiled  apple  and  8  oz. 
of  milk.  Then,  returning  from  his  evening  walk,  he 
listened  to  the  newspapers  and  some  letters.  Warm 
water  with  honey  at  night. 

Bapuji,  overcome  with  fatigue,  flung  himself  down 
in  the  bed  at  9-45.  He  strongly  disapproves  my  keeping 
awake  for  a  minute  after  he  himself  goes  to  bed.  So  I 
try  to  cope  with  all  my  work  before  he  retires. 


200 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


Kerva  East, 
l4-2-’47 

Woke  up  at  3-30  a.m.  as  usual.  Then  blushed 
his  teeth  and  prepared  his  Bengali  lesson.  Listened  to 
my  diary  and  signed  it.  After  a  little  correspondence 
work,  he  felt  tired  and  went  to  sleep  at  6-15  a.m.  to 
wake  up  again  at  7-15. 

His  letters  today  contained  among  other  points, 
this:  “We  should  never  keep  company  with  a  man 
who  follows  immoral  ways,  no  matter  how  highly 
valued  he  is  by  the  world.  .  .  .  God  has  -showered 
his  blessings  on  me  till  now.  As  for  man  s  condem¬ 
nation  and  even  chastisement,  I  have  grown  too  thick- 
skinned  for  them.”  What  a  perfect  man  of  God 
Bapuji  has  grown  into  could  be  seen  from  some  of 
his  letters  of  today. 

He  expressed  himself  in  favour  of  a  commission 
of  inquiry  into  .  .  .  since  he  believes  that  no  one 
should  object  to  a  probe,  through  an  impartial  tri¬ 
bunal,  if  what  has  truth  for  its  foundation  and  support 
is  assailed  with  grave  charges.  On  the  contrary,  theie 
should  be  an  insistence  on  an  inquiry.  Truth,  he  said, 
can  never  be  defeated  or  harmed. 

We  left  Kafilatali  at  7-30  a.m.  and  reached  here 
at  8-10.  This  village  was  quite  near  to  the  place  we 
had  just  left. 

It  is  cold  and  cloudy  today.  I  washed  Bapuji’s 
feet  on  arrival  here.  Under  the  guidance  of  Shailen- 
bhai,  Bapuji  read  and  translated  the  last  poem  of  a 
Bengali  book  Shikshana.  He  never  misses  an  oppor¬ 
tunity  to  make  any  Bengali  —  adult  or  child  —  his 
Guru  in  order  to  learn  the  language. 

I  massaged  Bapuji  indoors  as  the  weather  was 
cloudy  and  windy.  After  his  bath  he  ate  sparingly 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


201 


today,  taking  only  8  oz.  of  milk  and  a  little  of  the 
residue  of  the  cocoanut  pulp  after  oil  was  extracted 
from  it.  He  gave  up  his  khakharas  altogether.  At 
2  p.m.,  honey  in  hot  water  and  one  grapefruit.  At 
4,  only  cocoanut  water.  Bapuji  made  all  these  changes 
in  his  diet  as  he  is  heavily  pressed  with  work. 

Even  in  the  evening  he  took  nothing  but  whey. 
Then  he  dictated  letters  to  Gopinath  Bardoloi, 
Maulana  Saheb  (Abul  Kalam  Azad),  Jawaharlalji 
and  Jairamdasji. 

During  the  time  that  Bapuji  was  reading  the 
sayings  of  the  Prophet  Mahamad,  three  Muslim 
brothers  came  up.  “Bless  us  that  our  hearts  may 
remain  pure,”  they  urged.  Bapuji  replied, 
“Mahamad  Saheb  says,  ‘Live  in  the  world  but  with 
a  sense  of  a  travellers5  caravanserai  where  you  put  up 
for  a  night,  to  leave  the  next  morning.  Death  may 
pounce  upon  us  and  wing  us  off  at  any  moment.  The 
best  man  is  he  who  leads  a  long  busy  life,  performing 
good  deeds.  The  test  of  a  man’s  worth  lies  not  in  what 
he  claims  to  be,  i.e.  in  his  speech,  but  in  his  deeds.’ 
This  wise  sermon  is  beneficial  not  only  to  Muslims 
but  to  all  men  and  women  of  the  world.” 

An  extract  frQm  his  prayer-speech: 

“How  beautiful  and  generous  Nature  is  in 
Noakhali  !  But  our  hearts  are  not  kind.  We  can 
never  have  peace  as  long  as  we  nurse  untouchability  in 
our  hearts.  Is  it  good,  is  there  any  sense,  in  regarding 
any  human  being  —  our  own  flesh  and  blood  —  as  too 
loathsome  to  be  touched  by  us?  Untouchability  is 
the  biggest  and  the  darkest  stain  on  Hinduism.  Is  it 
not  true  that  you  consider  these  poor  people  ‘untouch¬ 
ables5,  in  return  for  the  great  service  they  do  us  in  re¬ 
moving  our  night-soil  and  other  filth?  The  real 


202 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


untouchable  is  he  who  is  immoral,  who  murders  his 
fellowman,  commits  adultery,  plays  foul  or  is  a  toper. 
Please  realize  clearly  this  distinction  between  the  real 
and  the  so-called  ‘untouchable’.  The  Britishers  are 
sure  to  quit  India.  But  as  long  as  we  do  not  comp¬ 
letely  eradicate  this  stigma  of  untouchability,  we  can 
never  enjoy  true  Swaraj .” 

Premabahen  Kantak  has  arrived;  Bapuji  spent 
nearly  the  whole  time  after  prayers  in  talking  to  her. 

Then  he  listened  to  the  papers.  There  was  noth¬ 
ing  else  worthy  of  note.  I  washed  Bapuji’s  feet  after 
9-30  p.m.  and  then  he  went  to  bed. 

Kerva  West, 
15-2-’47 

He  woke  up  a  little  earlier  than  the  prayer  time, 
i.e.  at  3  a.m.  So  he  went  through  the  post  till  it  was 
time  for  prayers,  which  Premabahen  conducted  today. 
Then  his  usual  Bengali  lesson  and  again  further  talks 
with  Premabahen  nearly  the  whole  time  before  we 
started  on  the  next  stage  of  our  pilgrimage. 

Dr.  Sushilabahen  came  here  to  bid  farewell  to 
Bapuji  as  she  is  proceeding  to  Delhi.  We  kept  to  the 
programme  as  planned,  and  at  7-30  left  for  Raipura. 

Raipura, 

15-2-’47 

Exactly  at  8-10  a.m.  Bapuji  stepped  into  the 
building  here  which  is  a  Union  Centre.  Talks  with 
Premabahen  had  continued  even  during  our  tramp 
here.  Bapuji  suggested  that  she  should  go  both  to 
Delhi  and  Sevagram. 

After  the  massage  and  bath,  his  meal:  3  khakharas 
6  oz.  of  milk,  some  vegetable  and  yeast  as  well  as  an 
orange  and  a  grapefruit. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


203 

During  his  meal  he  dictated  letters  to  Jawaharlalji 
and  Bardoloiji.  I  was  therefore  late  for  my  bath  and 
meal. 

A  card  dated  8-2-’47  written  by  Thakkarbapa 
from  Hemchar  reached  us  here  today,  after  a  week! 
So  a  card  from  a  nearby  village  took  full  7  days  to 
reach  us !  That  is  a  sample  of  the  vagaries  of  the  Postal 
Department  here. 

The  people  of  this  town,  including  Muslim 
brothers,  wanted  to  present  a  welcome  address  to 
Bapuji.  They  had  a  wooden  casket  beautifully  carved, 
and  enclosed  the  welcome  address  in  it. 

It  is  difficult  to  put  into  words  what  a  glorious 
victory  for  Bapuji  all  this  meant.  In  the  region  where 
none  dared  utter  the  name  of  Rama,  Ramadhuna  and 
hymns  are  sung  daily  all  along  our  route.  Muslim 
brothers  and  sisters  insist  that  Bapuji  should  put  up 
with  them.  Members  of  all  communities  freely  join 
in  my  public  activity,  like  this  one  of  a  welcome-ad¬ 
dress.  This  is  by  no  means  a  small  achievement!  But 
what  is  the  power  behind  it?  Such  a  spectacular 
victory  is  the  natural  result  of  Bapuji’s  moral  courage 
in  putting  into  literal  practice  the  precept  ‘First  offer 
thy  head  and  then  take  God’s  name’.  And  yet  he 
never  proclaims  this  underlying  reason.  “It  is  God 
alone  who  gets  things  done”  is  always  his  belief  and 
assertion.  Such  is  the  selfless  Karmayoga*  of  Bapuji. 

Disallowing  a  public  presentation  of  the  welcome- 
address  Bapuji  said,  “Give  that  address  to  me  here 
and  now.  How  can  I  indulge  in  receiving  such 
splendid  welcome-addresses  at  a  time  like  this?  And 
love  is  a  thing  of  the  heart.  There  is  no  need  to  put 


*Union  with  God  through  action 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


204 

love  of  the  heart  in  a  show-case  for  an  exhibition.  And 
what  have  I  done  in  particular  to  deserve  it?  What 
you  feel  as  my  achievement  is  due  entirely  to  Khuda’s 
grace.  Keep  your  love  for  me  in  your  hearts  and 
carry  on.  If,  moved  by  your  love  for  me  you  do  the 
work  I  suggest,  it  is  to  my  mind  the  best  of  recep¬ 
tions  ever  given  for  me.  Don’t  frighten  others  or  be 
afraid  of  them.” 

With  these  words  addressed  to  a  group  of  some 
four  or  five  leaders,  who  were  Muslims,  high-caste 
Hindus  and  Hindu  weavers,  and  who  thus  represented 
the  entire  town,  Bapuji  accepted  the  casket  of  the 
address  then  and  there,  though  they  wanted  to  present 
it  at  the  prayer  meeting. 

I  liked  that  casket  very  much.  It  was  certainly  a 
beautiful  piece  of  art.  But  more  than  that,  I  requested 
Bapuji  to  let  me  keep  it  with  me  as  a  memento  or 
prize  of  the  victory  of  his  historic  pilgrimage  of  peace. 
Bapuji  immediately  agreed  to  the  idea  with  a  broad 
laugh  and  remarked,  “Yes!  I  know  you  like  to  pre¬ 
serve  such  things.  But  I  for  one  would  like  you  to 
have  it,  only  if  you  feel  inspired  by  looking  at  it,  and 
always  attempt  to  do  something  good.* 

Nirmalda  has  gone  to  Vijayanagar;  so  Baba 
translated  Bapuji’s  prayer  speech.  At  first  he  had 
asked  Shailenbhai  to  translate  it,  but  changed  his 
mind  later  on.  Abelbhai’s  son  Sarhuddinbhai  met 
us  on  our  way  to  the  prayer-meeting  and  told  Bapuji 
many  things.  At  the  end  of  the  meeting,  Bapuji  went 
to  see  a  temple  which  has  been  transformed  into  a 
Pakistani  Club.  He  talked  about  the  matter  to 
Baba  and  the  local  friends  promised  to  do  the  needful 

*This  historic  gift  is  still  with  me,  preserved  as  an  object  of 
inspiration. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL  205 

about  it.  As  the  Imamsaheb  of  the  town  was  ill, 
Bapuji  paid  a  visit  to  him  also. 

There  are  six  unions  in  this  Division,  of  which 
this  is  the  fourth.  The  total  population  of  the  Divi¬ 
sion  is  45,000  and  of  this  Union  22,000;  among  them 
95%  are  Muslims  and  5%  Hindus.  These  latter  are 
landlords,  merchants  and  weavers. 

After  9-30  p.m.  Bapuji  went  to  bed.  Prior  to 
retiring  he  spun  his  yarn  (as  he  could  not  do  so  earlier) 
and  listened  to  the  papers  as  well. 

Rayapura, 

16-2-’47 

Woke  up  for  prayers  as  usual.  As  we  are  to  halt 
for  2  days  here,  I  was  practically  free  in  the  morning. 
After  prayers,  I  gave  Bapuji  honey  in  warm  water, 
copied  some  letters,  wrote  up  my  diary,  and  then  my 
letters  home.  After  a  long  interval,^  I  was  able  to 
write  letters  to  Jny  family  as  1  find  no  time  for  it. 
Bapuji  has  asked  me  to  make  it  a  rule  to  write  letters 
home  whenever  we  halt  for  2  days  at  a  stretch.  My 
elder  sister  had  complained  to  him  that  she  had  not 
heard  from  me  for  a  month.  So,  as  he  was  taking  his 
juice,  he  rebuked  me  for  my  negligence  and  made  me 
sit  down  in  front  of  him  to  write  letters  to  all  at 
home.  That  is  how  he  attends  to  all  matters. 

Went  out  for  a  stroll  exactly  at  7-30  a. m.  .  .  .  has 
asked  me  some  questions,  on  which  Bapuji  commented: 

.  .  ought  to  have  put  these  questions  straight  to  me; 
and  his  language  is  rotten.  .  .  .  has  several  grave 
defects  which  cannot  but  show  through  in  his  words 
and  deeds.  No  man  is  able  to  detect  faults  in  himself 
when  his  head  is  filled  with  egotism.  Pride  is  an  arch¬ 
enemy  of  mankind.  But  I  don’t  like  this  term  ‘enemy’ 


206 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


or  ‘opponent’  for  these  weaknesses.  If  a  man  can  see 
the  error  of  his  ways  or  detect  pride  in  himself,  and 
shed  them  off,  how  very  high  he  will  rise  in  life.  So, 
his  egotism  provides  him  with  a  chastening  lesson. 
How  can  we  then  call  it  our  ‘enemy’  ?  Do  I  turn  into 
your  enemy,  if  I  point  out  your  faults  ?  On  the  con¬ 
trary,  you  learn  from  it.  In  the  same  way,  vanity, 
when  it  is  found  out  carries  us  far  in  our  progress. 
But  this  capacity  to  discern  one’s  own  shortcomings 
is  a  strictly  self-taught  talent,  just  like  that  of  the 
person  who  has  to  digest  what  he  eats  by  means  of  his 
own  digestive  apparatus  and  nobody  else’s.  If  they 
are  healthy  and  strong,  the  digestive  juice  secrete  auto¬ 
matically  and  the  food  is  assimilated  and  turned  into 
blood.  If  they  are  weak,  the  man  is  sure  to  fall  a  prey 
to  a  disease.  This  same  law  of  self-reliance  holds  good 
for  every  other  human  activity.” 

On  our  return,  I  washed  Bapuji’s  feet.  After  the 
massage  and  bath,  he  had  one  khakh'&ra^  8  oz.  of  milk 
and  a  vegetable.  Then  letters  to  Madalsabahen  and 
Kishorlalkaka.  Attended  at  2  p.m.  a  cosmopolitan  din¬ 
ner  organized  by  the  townsmen.  There  was  great 
noise  and  bustle  there.  Bapu  didn’t  say  there  any¬ 
thing  worth  recording.  Returning  from  the  dinner, 
he  saw,  in  company  with  Shahbuddin  Saheb,  the  local 
mosque.  He  went  into  its  basement  also.  Returned 
at  nearly  3-30  p.m.  and  spun  a  remaining  sliver.  After 
that,  he  had  the  mud-packs  on  his  head  and  stomach. 
As  I  was  pressing  his  legs,  he  repeated  his  advice  of 
self-dependence,  like  that  in  the  digestive  process,  for 
improvement  in  moral  conduct;  and,  emphasizing  the 
need  to  cultivate  humility,  asked  me  to  think  over  all 
that  he  had  said.  When  he  woke  up  from  his  siesta, 
Messrs  Mazbul  Huq,  the  President  of  the  Union, 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


207 

Saiyyad  Ahmad  and  Akhtarzaman  interviewed  him. 
They  complained  that  the  Hindus  had  filed  false  cases 
against  the  Muslims.  “If  the  cases  are  got  up,”  replied 
Bapuji,  “the  accusers  will  be  punished.  But  how  can 
I  go  into  them  without  being  supplied  with  details 
like  their  names  etc.?” 

After  prayers,  Bhairavadanji,  a  private  clerk  of 
the  Birlas  arrived  and  gave  Rs.  2,553/-  as  a  contri¬ 
bution  to  the  Noakhali  Relief  Fund  from  the  workers 
in  the  Birla  Industries. 

Many  Muslim  brothers  came  to  the  prayer¬ 
meeting  today.  Among  the  chief  Maulvi  Sahebs  who 
attended  were  Mazmallali  Chaudhuri,  Fazlul  Rehman, 
Fazlul  Huq,  Kazi  Azizulla  Rehman  and  Vali  Ulla 
Saheb. 

It  was  evident  that  these  Maulvis  had  great  respect 
for  Bapuji.  One  Maulvi  Saheb  suggested  a  slight 
correction  in  my  intonation  of  the  Koranic  verse  I  sing 
at  prayers.  Bapuji  thereupon  asked  me  to  sit  by  the 
Maulvi  Saheb’s  side  for  half  an  hour  and  learn  the 
correct  way  of  reciting;  and  when  Bapuji  was  listening 
to  the  papers  at  8  p.m.  at  night,  the  Maulvi  Saheb  did 
come  and  teach  it  to  me  very  lovingly. 

One  banana,  milk  6  oz.  was  all  that  he  took  in 
the  evening,  and  a  glass  of  warm  water  with  honey 
and  soda  bi-carb  at  bed  time. 

Bapuji  uses  seven  slivers  a  day  and  spins  100  rounds 
on  an  average,  which,  on  some  days,  reaches  150 
rounds. 

9.45  p.m.,  preparation  for  sleep.  I  too  pressed 
his  legs,  rubbed  him  with  oil,  bowed  down  as  usual 
and  went  to  bed  immediately  thereafter.  Everything 
is  still  because  of  Bapuji’s  silence. 


208 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


Devipur, 

17-2-’47,  Monday 

Bengali  alphabets  after  prayers  as  is  the  rule. 
Then  the  warm  water,  during  which  he  listened  to  my 
diary  and  signed  it.  Then  began  the  correspondence 

work. 

In  one  of  his  letters  he  wrote,  “My  reply  to  your 
previous  letter  was  still  pending,  when  I  got  this  second 
one  from  you.  But  there  was  nothing  in  your  first 
letter  that  needed  an  immediate  reply.  I  am  at 
present  heavily  laden  both  with  mental  pressure  and 
physical  work.  It  gets  heavier  every  day,  as -sporadic 
attacks  are  on  the  increase.  All  the  same,  my  faith 
in  non-violence  and  also  my  courage  become  stronger; 
for,  am  I  not  here  to  do  or  die  ?  There  is  no  half-way 

measure  in  the  matter. 

.  .  It  is  not  certain  when  the  third  stage  of  my 
march  will  begin,  but  I  am  scheduled  to  reach  H aim- 
char  on  the  25th.  .  .  .  The  progress  onward  will  have 
to  depend  on  my  physical  stamina.  I  shall  take  it  as 
a  satisfactory  achievement  if  God  carries  me  through 
the  programme  even  up  to  the  25th.55 

In  reply  to  a  girl  who  had,  like  myself,  requested 
Bapuji  to  let  her  stay  with  him,  he  wrote,  “I  am  glad 
that  you  want  to  stay  with  me.  But  a  hundred  diffi¬ 
culties  crop  up  when  I  am  moving  from  village  to 
village  every  day.  To  go  about  villages  is  to  be  in 
places  where  many  necessities  are  unavailable,  where 
one  has  to  put  up  with  scarcity  of  accommodation  and 
where  water  especially  is  undrinkable.  I  do  not  dare 
call  you  here  in  such  a  situation.  What  I  therefore 
want  from  you  is  a  little  more  patience.  If  God  wills, 
the  time  will  surely  come  when  you  can  stay  with  me. 
It  seems  from  what  you  write  that  your  work  there  is 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


209 

going  on  splendidly.  Do  continue  to  advance  it  where 
you  are.  You  can  prove  to  be  an  invaluable  asset, 
if  you  are  an  adept  in  weaving  and  are  also  an  A1 
spinner.  Only  then  can  you  be  useful  and  be  in 
demand  everywhere.  You  must  have  picked  up 
Marathi  quite  well.  If  not,  learn  it.  Be  proficient  in 
naturopathy.  You  must  be  quite  at  home  with  Urdu 
—both  the  language  and  the  script,  and  have  a  smat¬ 
tering  of  Sanskrit  as  well.  And  do  all  this  with  a  light 
heart,  as  if  you  learn  wnile  you  play.  If  you  do  it 
in  this  manner,  time  will  never  hang  heavily  on  your 
hands.  Do  keep  in  touch  with  me  through  corres¬ 
pondence.  It  is  a  matter  of  concern  to  me  that  ...  is 
not  still  free  from  fever.  If  you  study  naturopathy  well 
enough  — —  and,  it’s  an  easy' thing  to  do — you  yourself 
can  cure  ...  of  his  fever.  His  diet  must  be  carefully 
looked  after.  Hip-bath,  warming  of  the  limbs  through 
friction  and  mud-packs  must  be  given  him,  I  believe. 
His  mind  too  must  be  kept  calm  and  quiet,  and  with 
it  the  chanting  of  Ramanama  of  course.55 

Another  letter:  “The  Postal  Department  here  is 
lethargic.  I  am  far  from  you  with  regard  to  access 
by  means  of  the  post.55 

His  various  letters  of  today  give  one  a  good  picture 
of  the  workings  of  his  mind  and  of  conditions  here. 

He  worked  on  till  6-50  a.m.,  and  then  had  a  rest 
for  15  minutes.  I  packed  the  kit,  some  of  which  I 
sent  on  in  advance.  Our  pilgrim’s  march  began  at 
7-35  from  Raipura  and  ended  for  the  day  at  8.55 
when  we  reached  this  place. 

The  reception  given  to  Bapuji  here  was  splendid 
to  a  degree.  Very  lovingly  people  had  made  pre¬ 
parations  for  it  beforehand.  He  was  made  to  pass 


L-14 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


210 

through  arches  hung  with  rows  of  pennons  and  bunt¬ 
ings.  All  this  could  be  organized  only  because  people 
had  gathered  courage  at  the  thought  of  Bapu  s  arrival. 

Today  is  his  silence  day;  so,  it  seemed,  he  was  lost 
in  a  reverie. 

After  I  washed  his  feet,  he  read  some  Bengali 
under  Shailenbhai’s  guidance  and  I  made  preparations 
for  his  massage.  Then  his  meal  after  the  massage  and 
bath,  5  almonds  and  5  cashewnuts  were  crushed  and 
mixed  with  the  vegetable  which  was  grated  today. 
One  whole  sour  lemon  was  squeezed  into  hot  milk. 
He  took  8  oz.  of  whey  thus  formed.  I  rubbed  his 
legs,  washed  the  clothes  which  were  many  today,  dou¬ 
bled  his  yarn,  visited  our  hostesses  and  ate  my  meal. 
Bapuji  got  up  by  then  and  had  cocoanut-water.  Then 
he  began  to  spin  and  I  read' him  the  post.  He  reclined  for 
half  an  hour  from  3  to  3-30  p.m.  with  the  mud-packs. 
In  the  evening  he  had  8  oz.  of  milk  and  2  grapefruits. 

His  silence  ended  as  he  was  sipping  the  milk.  As 
I  had  not  paid  much  attention  to  the  attractive  pre¬ 
parations  for  the  reception  here,  Bapuji  remarked, 
“You  ought  to  have  found  out  how  these  people  manag¬ 
ed  to  acquire  all  these  things,  who  were  the  principal 
movers  in  the  matter  and  other  details.” 

Only  then  did  I  realize  why  Bapuji  appeared  so 
serious  today  and  realized  my  mistake.  I  ran  out 
immediately,  set  on  foot  the  inquiry  of  the  details  and 
soon  I  got  all  the  facts.  There  are  300  Hindus  and 
1500  Muslims  in  the  village.  Among  the  Hindus  are 
Brahmanas,  Kayasthas  and  Shudras.  The  decorations 
included  red  and  yellow  paper-buntings,  festive  lights 
burning  with  ghee  and  oil,  shining  silver  or  gold  threads 
on  flowers,  pennants  and  flags.  It  was  quite  evident 
that  these  things  cannot  be  had  in  a  village.  Bapuji 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


211 

called  the  head-worker  and  asked  him,  “How  ever  did 
you  manage  to  bring  all  these  things  here?” 

“Bapu !”  he  replied,  “It’s  a  piece  of  rare  good  luck 
that  your  holy  feet  are  stepping  on  the  ground  of  this 
vi  -age.  To  give  you  a  fitting  reception,  we  all 
contributed  8  annas  each  and  collected  Rs.  300/-. 
This  expense  was  incurred  from  that  fund.” 

Tnis  distiessed  Bapuji.  Sadly  he  said,  “These 
flowers  and  all  this  splendid  show  will  wither  away  in  a 
short  while.  It  seems  to  me  from  all  this  that  you  are 
cheating  me.  You  are  only  fanning  the  flame  of  com¬ 
munal  hatred,  by  putting  up  this  show  on  the  strength  of 
my  presence  here.  Do  you  know  that  I  am  at  present 
in  the  midst  ctf  a  huge  flare-up?  I  wouldn’t  have  felt 
it  so  keenly  if,  instead  of  floral  decorations,  you  had 
presented  me  with  garlands  of  yarn.  They  can  de¬ 
corate,  yield  us  the  much-needed  cloth  afterwards 
and  nothing  is  then  wasted.  There  is  a  surplus  of 
money  in  this  village,  it  appears.  Otherwise,  how 
could  it  have  entered  into  your  head  to  get  such  costly 
ephemeral  garlands  in  these  hard  times  ?  You  are  in 
the  wrong,  if  you  have  done  this  to  express  your  love  for 
me.  That  does  not  show  your  love  at  all.  It  is  enough 
if,  out  of  love  for  me,  you  do  what  I  say.  I  can’t 
conceive  how  after  this  great  slaughter  of  your  own 
people,  you  could  ever  think  of  a  gay  celebration  and 
lavish  expense  over  these  flowers.  Moreover,  you  are 
a  Congressman  and  public  worker.  You  have  read 
my  literature,  as  you  say,  and  taken  an  M.A.  degree 
despite  which  you  have  used  foreign  and  mill-made 
silk-yarn  and  ribbons !  I  only  want  to  say  that  all 
this  is  a  very  painful  sight  to  me.” 

“  When,  on  the  basis  of  your  example,”  he  con¬ 
tinued,  “I  think  of  my  fellow-workers  as  a  class,  I 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


212 

wonder  if  they,  too,  though  now  known  as  patriots 
and  servants  of  the  public,  will  not  succumb  in  future 
to  the  temptation  of  receiving  or  giving  such  costly 
flower  garlands  on  a  rise  to  a  prestige-post.  Now  I 
realize  that  I  can’t  henceforth  confidently  affirm  that 
every  one  of  my  workers  will  always  remain  simple  in 
his  habits,  whatever  the  temptations ;  that  he  will  never 
give  up  his  ideal  of  disinterested  service,  even  though 
he  may  own  any  number  of  motor-cars  and  bungalows. 

I  wish  he  could  remain  above  them  but  the  fact  points 
to  the  contrary.  Well!  Today  s  incident  has  made 
me  sit  up.  I  don’t  see  specially  your  fault  in  this 
matter.  As  for  you,  you  only  bared  your  true  self 
and  who  can  help  that  ?  But  it  is  thus  that  God  makes 
me  realize  my  own  shortcomings.  Don’t  know  what 
worse  things  I’m  still  fated  to  see! 

In  one  unceasing  forceful  torrent  of  words,  Bapuji 
poured  out  the  anguish  of  his  heart.  The  poor 
workers  were  stunned;  their  faces  grew  pale.  It  was 
a  bolt  from  the  blue  to  them.  Bapuji  then  requested 
them  to  roll  all  the  thread  that  had  been  used  in  the 
decorations  into  a  ball.  So,  at  night,  after  evening 
prayers,  that  brother-worker  came  with  20  small  hanks 
of  the  thread  in  his  hand.  “See  the  result!”  addressed 
Bapuji  to  me.  “What  a  large  number  of  clothes  can  one 
stitch  up  with  these  hanks!  I  want  to  teach  you  to 
have  an  eye  for  such  small  details.  Wherever  you 
find  something  happening  that  goes  against  my  teach¬ 
ings,  you  must  be  vigilant  and  make  detailed  inquiries. 
Though  Nirmalbabu  does  so,  you  too  should  follow 
suit.  You  ought  to  cultivate  a  sense  of  the  practical. 
By  God’s  grace  you  will  learn.  But  I  want  you  to 
realize  fully  that  I  have  never  trained  any  one  with  the 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


213 


same  care  as  I  bestow  on  you.  Only  Prabha*  was 
trained  on  similar  lines,  but  only  partially.  She  was 
never  quite  as  alone  with  me  as  you  are.  You  didn’t 
get  such  valuable  lessons  from  me  in  the  Aga  Khan 
Palace,  for  Ba  was  there  to  pamper  you.  But  even 
there  you  did  get  some  training.  All  these  lessons 
here  only  complement  what  you  have  learnt  there.” 

Bapuji  told  me  all  this  at  night  when  he  had 
lain  down  on  his  bed  and  I  was  pressing  his  legs. 

The  following  is  another  incident  which  had  a 
chastening  influence  on  me. 

Acute  pain  in  my  stomach  had  begun  since  the 
evening  and  Bapuji  had  then  asked  me  to  foment  the 
part  at  bedtime.  But  I  forgot  to  heat  water  for  it. 
Before  going  to  bed  he  inquired  whether  I  had  the 
fomentation.  I  had  to  admit  that  I  hadn’t,  as  it  had 
completely  escaped  my  mind.  He  felt  grieved  and 
disappointed  in  me.  “The  girl,  who  is  lazy  in  doing 
what  she  ought  to  for  herself,”  he  commented,  “is  likely 
to  be  so  in  her  work  for  others.  Don’t  you  presume 
that  your  body  is  under  your  care?  No,  it’s  under 
God’s.  Suppose  a  man  rents  a  house  and  keeps  it 
clean  and  tidy  and  repairs  any  damage  done  to  the 
building.  Then,  the  house  remains  intact  and  neat, 
and  the  tenant  is  esteemed  a  respectable  man.  In  the 
same  way,  our  body  is  a  tabernacle  owned  by  the 
Lord  of  all  that  is,  namely,  God.  We  must  consider 
it  our  bounden  duty  to  repair,  if  there  is  any  crack  or 
breakage,  and  to  see  that  we  never  fail  to  discharge 
our  duty.  Otherwise  God  is  sure  to  be  displeased  with 
us  for  our  criminal  negligence.  When  He  sends  the 


*Wife  of  Shri  Jayaprakash  Narayan 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


214 

order,  that  house  has  to  be  vacated.  But  if  the  taber¬ 
nacle  has  been  carefully  looked  after  and  God’s  service 
done  through  it,  only  then  can  the  life  occupying  it  be 
said  to  have  fulfilled  its  mission  on  earth.  And  God 
will  be  pleased.  What  are  we,  otherwise,  than  one  of 
the  billions  of  insects  that  crawl  in  the  mud  of  the 
earth?  If,  in  all  our  daily  activities  like  eating, 
drinking,  sleeping,  talking  and  working  we  follow  the 
laws  of  right  living,  there  is  little  possibility  of  the 
health  of  the  body  deteriorating.  But  if,  on  some 
occasions,  the  mechanism  of  the  body  gets  out  of  order, 
then  let  us  not  forget  that  the  machine  belongs  to  God 
and  so  it  has  to  be  looked  after  and  served  faithfully 
and  well.” 

After  this  discourse  he  asked  me  to  heat  some 
water.  It  was  past  10  p.m.  then;  I  was  therefore  late 
in  getting  to  bed. 

Everything  else  had  gone  on  as  usual.  All  was 
quiet  and  still  as  Bapuji’s  silence  had  continued  for  the 
whole  day.  He  had  taxed  himself  a  little  too  much 
in  explaining  those  things  to  us  all  and  was  therefore 
tired.  We  are  staying  here  with  a  prince  who  is  a 
Kayastha  and  has  taken  to  agriculture.  There  are 
300  Hindus  and  1,500  Muslims  in  this  place. 

Bapuji  signed  my  diary  today  with  the  following 
addendum  in  his  own  hand : 

[Alunia,  18-2-?47 

I  lost  my  equilibrium  today — a  good  sample  oi  my 
attachment  still!  I  was  disgusted  with  myself.  It  seems  I 
should  consider  the  implications  of  the  probability  that 
non-violence  will  be  put  to  its  severest  test  here.  But  God 
in  His  unbounded  grace  bears  with  me  and  sustains  me. 
Manu!  Take  heed  from  this  and  be  alert. 


— Bapu] 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


215 


Alunia, 
18-2-’47,  Tuesday 

Up  from  bed  at  the  time  of  prayers  as  usual. 
Then,  as  he  was  sipping  warm  water  with  honey,  he 
listened  to  my  diary  and  signed  it.  I  had  not  seen  in 
my  diary  his  remarks  which  showed  his  distress  over 
yesterday  s  happenings.  Bapuji  asked  me,  “Have  you 
read  what  I  have  written  in  your  diary?” 

No,  I  haven  t,”  I  faltered,  “I  had  gone  to  wash 
the  glass  after  handing  it  to  you.” 

“If  we  entrust  somebody  with  an  article,  what¬ 
ever  it  be,”  rejoined  Bapuji,  “we  must  inspect  it  on  its 
return  to  us,  especially  when  our  interest  is  involved. 
Don  t  you  know  that  I  never  let  even  a  postcard  I 
write  go  without  revising  it?  That  is  an  old  habit 
of  mine.” 

I  looked  into  my  diary,  every  word  in  it  spoke  of 
Bapuji’s  deep  grief. 

Then  he  wrote  a  letter  about  me  to  my  father,  and 
another  to  Prafullababu  (the  ex-Chief  Minister  of 
Bengal)  in  reply  to  his  request  to  Bapuji  to  visit  the 
Abhaya  Ashram:  “If  I  happen  to  go  to  Cumilla,  I 
will  certainly  make  it  a  point  to  visit  the  Ashram. 

.  .  .  My  pilgrimage  is  proceeding  apace  at  present, 
but  it  seems  I  shall  be  compelled  to  take  some  rest 
after  I  reach  Haimchar.” 

We  left  Devipur  at  7-30  a.m.  and  arrived  here  at 
8-55.  Bapuji  explained  to  me  a  Bengali  lesson,  while 
I  was  washing  his  feet.  Then  the  massage  and  bath, 
and  his  meal:  two  khakharas ,  vegetable,  some  residue 
from  a  cocoanut  after  its  oil  had  been  extracted,  and 
two  grapefruits. 

The  vegetable  today  was  an  odd  hotch-potch. 
Bapuji  had  asked  me  to  jumble  together  ladies’  fingers, 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


216 

a  leafy  vegetable,  bitter  gourd  ika-rela)  and  some  white 
pumpkin  and  boil  the  lot  together.  The  fibres  of 
ladies’. fingers  made  this  into  a  semi-liquid  lump,  sticky 
like  a  paste.  And  to  crown  it  all,  he  made  me  pour 
milk  into  it,  when  he  was  about  to  eat  it.  When  I 
was  stirring  this  extraordinary  culinary  effort  with  a 
spoon,  I  wondered  how  Bapuji  would  get  it  down  his 
throat  without  a  feeling  of  repulsion.  “How  ever 
can  you  gulp  this  mess  down!”  I  observed  jocularly. 

“Ah!”  came  the  quick  answer,  “hunger  is  not 
fastidious.” 

Then,  he  set  apart  two  tablespoons  of  it  and  asked 
me  to  taste  it.  Bapuji  has  been  taking  only  boiled 
vegetable  —  without  any  seasoning  at  all  —  since  many 
years  past.  That  I  can  understand.  But  this  odd 
composition  with  milk  to  boot !  That  too  he  ate  with 
astonishing  composure !  I  was  bound  to  respect 
Bapuji’s  wishes  in  view  of  his  inordinate  love  and 
maternal  care.  So  I  too  sampled  it  but  I  could  not 
help  feeling  an  aversion,  worse  than  for  an  unpalatable 
medicine.  While  he  was  having  his  meal  he  dictated 
some  letters  in  English  to  Shri  Rangaswami,  repre¬ 
sentative  of  The  Hindu. 

While  resting,  he  did  his  Bengali  lesson.  At  2 
p.m.  came  Suchetabahen  Kripalani.  Some  Khaksar* 
brothers  also  had  come  to  meet  Bapuji.  They  requested 
him  to  write  a  letter  to  the  Interim  Government  re¬ 
commending  mass  release  of  all  ELhaksars  from  the 
various  jails. 

“I  am  not  prepared  to  accept  offhand  your  oral 
statement.  Let  me  have  everything  pertaining  to  this 


*A  semi-military  corps  of  communalist  Muslims 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


217 


matter  in  writing.  Only  then  will  I  have  a  proper 
basis  for  consideration,”  was  Bapuji’s  reply.  He 
seems  to  be  a  little  more  fagged  out  than  usually.  He 
complained  of  a  burning  sensation  in  his  eyes,  and  had 
mud-packs  put  on  them.  He  has  decided  to  rest 
after  reaching  Haimchar.  He  told  me,  “It’s  now  a 
question  of  only  a  few  days  more.  .  .  .  Even  if  .  .  . 
doesn’t  understand  me  till  my  last  breath,  why  should 
the  fact  depress  me  or  make  me  hanker  for  his  love  ? 
But,  as  I  told  you,  I  admitted,  in  my  letter  written  only 
the  day  before  yesterday,  that  the  matter  betrayed  my 
want  of  detachment  to  a  certain  extent.  If  I  attain  the 
state  of  a  sthitapr ajna ,*  whatever  happens  will  leave  me 
unaffected  and  calm.  As  the  poet  says,  “He  knows 
howto  equalize  both  pleasure  and  pain.”  My  attempt 
however,  despite  all  my  lapses,  persists  in  that  direc¬ 
tion,  and  I  have  the  fullest  hope  and  faith  that  it  will 
not  take  as  many  days  now  to  reach  that  state,  as  have 
already  passed  in  the  attempt.  That  is  exactly  why 
with  complete  confidence  and  courage  I  permitted 
...  to  leave  me.  If,  in  this  way,  Ramanama  is  inde¬ 
libly  engraved  in  my  heart,  I  shall  dance  with  joy. 
Not  only  shall  I  get  help  from  you  in  my  work,  but  my 
spiritual  power  also  will  increase,  to  the  degree 
that  you  learn  to  be  vigilant  in  the  discharge  of  your 
duties.  I  am  glad  to  say  that  you  have  already  made 
good  progress  in  the  matter.” 

In  the  afternoon  a  gentleman  came  here  all  the 
way  from  Bihar,  especially  to  sing  the  Ramayana  to 
Bapuji.  To  satisfy  him  Bapuji  heard  his  melodious 
recitation  for  a  while  and  then  said,  “You  may  return 
to  Bihar  tomorrow.  I  don’t  like  to  detain  you  here 


*One  who  is  stabilized  in  wisdom 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


218 

simply  for  the  pleasure  of  listening  to  your  musical 
recitation  of  verses  from  the  Ramayana.  Even  this 
girl  can  sing  them  quite  well.  I  must  also  say  that 
your  singing  doesn’t  come  up  to  the  standard  of  what 
I  had  the  pleasure  of  listening  to  many  years  ago.  1  he 
present  situation  in  Bihar,  moreover,  has  made  the 
whole  province  a  field  for  urgen  t  social  service.  If 
the  Bihar  villagers  feel  converted  by  the  sing¬ 
ing  of  Ramayana,  you  may  do  them  that  service. 
Otherwise,  you  may  engage  in  some  constructive  work. 
At  this  critical  juncture,  this  type  of  service  should  be 
everyone’s  concern,  and  their  energy  devoted  to  it. 
It  should  be  sheer  selfishness  and  crazy  attachment 
on  my  part,  if  I  detain  you  here  merely  to  listen  to  your 
musical  intonation  of  the  Ramayana.  That  would 
be  a  sinful  act  for  you  and  me.  Let  us  both  save 
ourselves  from  it.  For  myself,  I  shall  be  satisfied  with 
the  singing  of  the  Ramayana  by  this  girl,  whatever  its 
musical  merits.  She  has  a  sweet  voice  and  can  sing 
well  enough.  She  has  also  the  talent  to  pick  up  a  new 
tune  immediately.  You  can  therefore  teach  her 
your  way  of  singing,  if  she  gets  any  time  to  spare 
today.  But  you  need  not  prolong  your  stay  further 
than  today  even  to  teach  her.”  And  I  learnt  his 
method  of  recitation  during  the  time  when  Bapuji 
was  engaged  in  talks  with  visitors. 

Beyond  the  Dakaria  river  there  stays  a  very  old 
man  who  longed  intensely  for  Bapuji’ s  darshan ,  but 
was  physically  unable  to  come'  across  to  obtain  it. 
So,  Bapuji  was  requested  to  go  to  him.  Though  he 
was  not  a  leader  or  anybody  in  particular,  Bapuji 
acceeded  to  the  request.  We  had  to  take  a  boat 
as  the  river  was  in  spate.  Both  the  banks  were  lined 
with  crowds  of  spectators.  It  was  an  unforgettable 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


219 


sight  — the  river  running  between  colonnades  of  emer¬ 
ald-green  trees,  the  sky  a  speckless  blue  and  the  weather 
temperate.  It  was  a  question  of  only  5  or  7  minutes 
to  cross  the  river.  But  even  for  that  short  period  Bapuji 
sti  etched  his  limbs,  laid  his  head  on  my  lap,  closed 
his  eyes  and  sank  into  a  nap.  The  boat  glided.  Now 
there  was  only  the  vast  canopy  of  the  sky  above,  and  a 
long  long  stretch  of  water  below  lapping  against  the 
boat.  Far  away,  both  behind  and  in  front  of  us,  could 
be  seen  large  crowds  of  men  in  the  background  of  green 
foliage.  A  soft  and  gentle  breeze  was  blowing.  In  the 
midst  of  this  enchanting  scenery,  and  at  a  time  when 
the  mellow  evening-  was  displaying  its  most  ravishing 
beauty,  I  was  alone  in  the  boat,  except  for  one  boat¬ 
man  who  was  no  company,  with  one  of  the  world’s 
most  exalted  souls,  with  his  head  lying  cosily  in  my 
lap  and  with  my  palm  on  his  forehead.  It  was  just  a 
fleeting  five  minute,  but  a  five  minutes  that  were  full  of 
bliss  for  me! 

This  apparently  trivial  incident  remains  with  me, 
treasured  as  the  most  valuable  of  all  others  during 
the  whole  pilgrimage. 

On  our  return  from  the  visit,  Bapuji  answered  a 
question  from  a  lady  worker.  “The  workers  are  to  go 
to  villages  to  instil  into  them  the  courage  of  self-relia¬ 
nce  and  of  faith  in  God.  Villagers  should  never  be 
allowed  to  feel  as  if  they  lose  their  sole  mentor  and 
protector,  when  the  worker  departs  from  their  village. 
The  worker  should  leave  the  people  in  no  doubt  as 
regards  their  very  temporary  stay,  i.e.  only  up  to  the 
conclusion  of  their  work.  They  must  be  distinctly 
told  to  rely  upon  themselves  alone  and  learn  the  art 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


220 

of  dying  for  the  preservation  of  their  religion  and 
chastity.  ...” 

Among  other  things  Bapuji  said,  “There  was  a 
similar,  though  not  quite  the  same,  situation  when  I 
began  my  crusade  for  the  removal  of  untouchability. 
The  campaign  was  in  response  to  the  call  of  my  con¬ 
science,  but  my  colleagues  and  society  at  large  were 
strongly  opposed  to  it.  Even  then  I  persisted,  as  I 
have  often  done  whenever  it  was  a  matter  of  heeding 
to  that  ‘still  small  voice5.  And  I  have  gained  at  least 
partial  success  in  such  matters.  I  say  this  though 
I  know  that  it  is  not  given  to  man  to  worry  over  the 
question  of  success  or  failure  of  his  attempts.  That  is 
a  matter  which  God  alone — -and  none  else  —  has  the 
right  to  look  after.  To  dabble  into  what  is  God’s 
sphere  of  work  is  nothing  but  self-conceit  and 
foolishness.” 

Nripenda  then  came  to  Bapuji  for  a  talk.  It  is 
now  8  p.m.  I  have  just  finished  the  entries  in  my 
diary.  Bapuji  has  not  glanced  over  the  papers  as  yet. 
He  is  going  to  recline  with  mud-packs  on  his  eyes  and 
listen  to  the  newspapers.  I  have  yet  to  make  the  beds, 
fold  the  washed  clothes  and  do  some  packing  of  our 
kit. 

This  house  belongs  to  Rajkumar  Das.  There  are 
646  houses  in  the  village  with  4,621  Muslims  and  only 
1,000  Hindus.  Bapuji  spun  90  rounds  of  yarn 
today. 

The  newspapers  were  read  to  him  when  he  re¬ 
laxed  with  the  mud-packs.  I  rubbed  him  with  oil  and 
making  my  pranarrtas*  I  too  retired  to  sleep. 


"‘'Salutations 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


221 


Birampur, 

l9-2-’47 

Today  is  Mahashivaratri*  Day.  As  it  is  also  the 
anniversary  of  the  demise  of  revered  grandma,  I 
asked  Bapuji,  “What  do  you  say  to  beginning  the 
recitation  of  the  Gita  exactly  at  7-35?”  (That  was 
the  exact  minute  of  grandma’s  death.) 

“I  have  no  objection,”  replied  Bapu,  “if  that  is 
what  you  want.  For  me,  it  is  a  day  of  fasting  and 
prayer.  I  must  own  and  proclaim  freely  that  I  could 
not  have  risen  so  high,  had  it  not  been  for  Ba’s  un¬ 
wavering  loyalty.  It  was  Ba  who  understood  and 
knew  me  as  no  one  else.  Who  then  can  point  out 
her  sterling  worth  better  than  I  ?  To  what  lengths 
she  went  to  remain  loyal  to  me  through  thick  and  thin ! 
And  you  were  present  at  her  last  moments.  I  was 
wondering  in  whose  lap  she  would  choose  to  rest  her 
head  in.  But  she  called  me,  and  none  else,  and 
breathed  her  last  in  my  lap.  That  was  Ba  —  a  gem 
of  the  purest  ray.  The  only  right  and  proper  way  to 
perform  her  shraddha\  is  to  remember  her  with  due  re¬ 
verence,  recall  her  many  fine  qualities  and  try  to  emu¬ 
late  them.  Her  service  to  me  was  steeped  in  a  spirit 
both  loving  and  chaste.  Right  from  her  marriage  to 
her  last  breath  she  rendered  me  uninterrupted  service, 
with  her  mind,  soul  and  body.” 

This  unstinted  appreciation  of  revered  grandma 
was  the  first  thing  I  heard  from  Bapuji’s  lips  when 

*The  fourteenth  day  of  the  dark  half  of  Magha  on  which  a 
fast  and  worship  of  God  Shiva  even  during  night  are  enjoined. 

f  A  religious  rite  performed  in  honour  of  the  departed 
spirits  of  -dead  relatives. 


222 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


he  woke  me  up  in  the  morning  while  he  was  brushing 
his  teeth. 

Glowing  tributes  will  be  paid  to  revered  grandma 
today,  probably  all  over  India;  but  this  one  from 
revered  Bapuji  himself,  given  with  such  warmth  and 
sincerity  at  the  early  hour  of  4  a.m.,  immediately  on 
opening  my  eyes  for  the  day,  made  me  feel  excep¬ 
tionally  lucky. 

Our  morning  prayer  was  conducted  as  usual  at 
Alunia,  our  starting  point.  After  a  talk  with  Devbhai 
Bapuji  had  warm  water  with  honey.  Half  an  hour 
afterwards  he  took  pineapple  juice  and  signed  some 
letters.  He  then  rested  for  10  minutes,  after  which 
our  trek  began  at  7-25  a.m.  It  took  us  72  minutes  to 
come  here.  All  along  that  route,  a  troupe  of  devotion¬ 
al  singers  sang  charming  hymns;  so  there  was  no  parti¬ 
cular  need  for  me  to  sing,  but  I  sang  one  hymn  as 
my  own  contribution  to  those  of  the  troupe.  On 
reaching  here  I  washed  Bapuji’s  feet.  During  the  time 
he  was  occupied  with  his  Bengali  lesson,  I  set  up  a 
tent  and  made  other  preparations  for  massage  etc. 

Bapuji  was  worn  out  with  fatigue;  he  dropped 
off  to  sleep  for  a  long  time  during  the  massage. 
After  his  bath  he  wrote  and  signed  letters  to  Jajuji, 
Jawaharlalji,  Chritehans,  Kulkarni,  Rukminidevi, 
Harisinha  Ghosh,  and  Abdulla  Saheb. 

Aryanayakamji  is  with  us  today.  Bapuji  had  long 
talks  with  him.  At  12-30  p.m.  he  lay  down  to  rest  and 
I  rubbed  ghee  on  his  legs  and  feet  and  did  my  own 
miscellaneous  work  like  doubling  the  yarn,  mending 
clothes,  writing  up  my  diary  etc.  Amalprabhabahen 
and  Purnendubabu  have  accompanied  Nayakamji 
(Aryanayakam) .  Besides,  there  is  Amiyababu  (Amiya 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


223 


Ghakravarti)  with  us.  All  this  company  has  filled 
up  Bapuji’s  day,  and  made  it  a  busy  one. 

When  he  got  up  from  his  midday  rest  he  took 
cocoanut  water  and  looked  at  the  post.  While  spin¬ 
ning  at  2  p.m.  he  renewed  his  talks  with  Aryanayakamji 
and  asked  me  to  crop  with  a  machine,  his  overgrown 
hair  during  his  talk.  This,  I  did.  That  shows  how 
heavily  pressed  for  time  he  is.  Bapuji  frequently 
referred  to  me  in  his  talks  with  Aryanayakamji  who 
seemed  satisfied  and  pleased.  Even  at  3  p.m.  when 
he  was  lying  down  with  the  mud-packs,  the  same 
group  of  Nayakamji  continued  their  talks  with  Bapuji. 
It  was  a  discussion  on  T&lun.  A  lot  of  oranges 

have  been  sent  us  from  Sylhet.  In  the  holy  memory 
of  revered  grandma,  they  were  distributed  among  the 
children  here.  “Don’t  you  remember,”  remarked 
Bapuji,  “that  Ba  was  Ba  (the  mother),  who  was 
especially  happy  when  feeding  others  and  not  when 
taking  anything  herself?” 

He  took  some  milk  and  eight  dates  only  in  the 
evening,  and  he  went  to  the  prayers.  There  he  was 
asked,  “What  should  be  done  to  counteract  malicious 
gossip  deliberately  spread  by  interested  parties  against  a 
Hindu  public  worker?”  Bapuji  replied,  “I  would  say 
that  a  man  is  truly  appraised  from  his  deeds,  and  that 
too  only  by  non-violent  persons  who  have  the  chari¬ 
table  non-violent  point  of  view.  Other  judgments 
are  faulty,  but  one  need  not,  therefore,  rush  in  an 
excited  frame  of  mind,  to  defend  one’s  conduct  or  to 
clear  up  misunderstandings.  At  the  same  time,  oc¬ 
casions  do  arise  when  it  becomes  the  duty  of  a  man 
to  speak  out  and  give  a  detailed  explanation  of  his 
position.  It  is  almost  dishonesty  and  a  lie  to  keep 
mum  at  such  a  time.  So,  the  right  thing  to  do  is  to  use 


224 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


our  discrimination  as  best  as  we  can  and  decide 
whether  to  justify  our  action  or  remain  silent.  Any 
explanation,  that  we  give,  must,  oi  course,  be  couched 
in  decorous  language.” 

As  arranged,  the  chanting  of  the  Gita  verses  began 
exactly  at  7-35  p.m.  A  photograph  of  grandma 
which  I  had  with  me  was  placed  in  front  of  us.  Alter 
garlanding  it  with  a  wreath  of  flowers  and  making 
obeisance,  I  began  the  recitation.  Nayakamji  and 
his  group,  other  guests  and  some  local  people 
including  Muslim  brothers  attended  it.  I  alone  sang 
the  verses  while  all  the  others  listened.  It  took  me  one 
hour  and  a  quarter  to  complete  the  chanting.  An 
air  of  deep  peace  and  solemnity  prevailed  during  the 
time.  As  soon  as  it  ended  Bapuji  wrote  a  letter  to  my 
sister : 

“At  7-35  in  the  evening  on  this  very  day  Ba  gave  up 
her  mortal  coil.  Our  guests  attended  the  recitation.  Partly 
because  Manudi  was  reciting  the  Gita,  with  good  speed  though 
alone, — just  as  we  were  alone  at  the  Aga  Khan  Palace  at  that 
fateful  moment  —  I  had  something  like  a  vision  when  I  lay 
down  at  the  end  of  the  6th  canto *  and  was  drowsy.  I  felt 
as  if  Ba  was  lying  with  her  head  in  my  lap.” 

I  too  had  observed  a  fast.  Taking  only  some  root 
and  fruit  diet  (without  any  cereal)  when  the  prayer 
ended,  I  did  my  work  for  some  time.  Bapuji,  on  his 
part  was  engaged  in  talks  with  the  guests  right  up  to 
10-45  p.m. 

Our  host  is  Taranicharan  Das,  a  fisherman.  100 
Hindus  have  by  now  returned  to  the  village.  It  has 
a  population  of  6,000  Muslims  and  350  Hindus. 

*Bapuji  was  listening  with  rapt  attention  to  the  chanting  of 
the  Gita  up  to  the  6th  canto,  but  as  he  felt  tired  then  he  lay 
down  on  his  bed. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


225 


Bishakathali, 

20-2-’47 

The  cold  tonight  was  unbearable.  At  12  p.m. 
Bapuji  roused  me  from  sleep.  I  wrapped  him  in  an 
extra  covering  and  pressed  his  body  all  over  to  give  it 
warmth.  His  feet  especially,  had  grown  very  cold. 
Gusts  of  cold  wind  swept  inside  the  hut  and  nothing 
could  be  done  to  prevent  it.  Such  is  the  hardship 
Bapuji  is  undergoing  at  the  present  time. 

At  12-30  p.m.  he  complained,  “The  soles  of  my 
feet  have  become  cold  and  stiff.”  I  touched  his  hands 
and  feet  and  found  them  alarmingly  cold.  He  seemed 
to  be  shivering  too.  But  what  could  be  done?  To 
save  kerosene,  Bapuji  insists  that  the  light  should  be 
put  out  at  bedtime.  It  was  the  darkest  night  of  the 
month,  the  new  moon  night  or  the  preceding  one. 
All  around  us  was  the  fearful  and  aweful  solitude  of 
darkness  in  a  dense  jungle.-  The  blasts  of  wind  howl¬ 
ing  through  the  cocoanut  and  betelnut  leaves  have 
made  the  environment  quite  sinister.  But  those 
trees  were,  besides  me,  the  only  witnesses  of  the  austere 
penance  this  man  of  God  was  undergoing  in  order  to 
awaken  humaneness  in  hardened  hearts.  I  wondered 
what  I  should  do  to  stop  the  cold  stinging  winds  from 
rushing  into  the  hut  through  the  holes  in  the  thatched 
roof.  In  this  small  room  there  were  only  two  humans 
—  Bapuji  and  I.  Many  ways  to  save  Bapuji  from  that 
freezing  cold  suggested  themselves  to  me,  but  had  to 
be  dismissed.  I  was  reminded  of  the  hot-water  bag 
I  had  with  me.  But  where  was  the  means  to  heat 
water  for  it?  To  awaken  somebody  else  was  also  out 
of  the  question.  I  was  afraid  lest  Bapuji  might  frown 
upon  my  disturbing  any  one.  And  would  he  sanction 
the  use  of  kerosene  to  light  a  stove  when  he  forbade 


L.-15 


226  THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 

even  a  dim  light  during  our  sleep  ?  I  was  m  the 
end  forced  to  admit  that  all  such  thoughts  were  useless 
and  unavailing.  All  I  could  therefore  do  was  to  cover 
him  up  from  head  to  foot  with  everything  that  was  at 
hand  and  to  press  his  body  hard  all  over  with  all  my 
might.  After  full  half  an  hour’s  pressure  that  way, 
Bapuji  became  somewhat  warm  and  fell  asleep. 

After  prayers  the  routine  of  the  day’s  work  followed 
in  due  course.  At  night,  I  was  seized  with  an  urge  to 
send  for  a  thermos  flask,  so  that  hot  water  would  be 
available  if  urgently  required.  With  fear  and  trepi¬ 
dation  therefore  I  asked  Rapuji’s  permission  for  it. 

“If  at  Kazirkhil  there  is  a  spare  thermos,”  replied 
Bapuji,  “which  lies  unused  with  them,  you  may  send 
for  it.  But  on  no  account  can  a  new  one  be  ordered. 

Where’s  the  money  to  buy  it?” 

An  amusing  sight  met  my  eyes  today.  I  saw  that 
Bapuji  had  drawn  regular  blocks  within  which  he  elect¬ 
ed  to  write  the  Bengali  alphabets.  They  were  similar  to 
those  we  draw  for  our  little  ones  to  help  them  in  their 
first  venture  in  writing.  •  The  sight  of  aged  Bapuji 
struggling  to  write  the  Bengali  alphabets  within  the 
same  ruled  off  areas  provoked  me  to  laughter.  I 
remarked,  “Looks  as  if  you  are  studying  in  the  infant 
class.” 

“Quite  right,”  returned  Bapu.  “Man  is  really  a 
student  to  the  end  of  his  life.  This  is  the  best  way  to 
master  the  letters  and  improve  our  hand-writing.  My 
teacher  taught  me  this  method  to  commit  the  alphabets 
and  multiplication  tables  to  memory,  and  I  think  the 
method  excellent.” 

After  the  lesson  the  fruit  juice.  When  he  was 
reading  the  Bengali  primer,  he  was  off  to  sleep  for  10 
minutes.  Woke  up  again  at  7-15  a.m.  At  7-25  a.m. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


227 

we  left  Birampur  and  arrived  here,  after  one  full  hour, 
at  8-25.  On  arrival  here  he  did  his  Bengali  lesson. 
Had  a  nap  of  45  minutes  during  the  massage.  Then 
his  meal:  3  khakharas ,  vegetable,  milk  10  oz.  and  3 
oranges. 

After  his  midday  rest  he  drank  water  from  one 
cocoanut,  and  in  the  evening,  milk  mixed  with  orange 
juice.  I  read  to  him,  in  the  afternoon,  some  letters 
from  Sevagram.  The  spinning  and  interviews  with 
visitors  according  to  the  time-table.  When  he  was 
dictating  letters  to  Rangaswami,  he  felt  very  drowsy 
and  dropped  off  to  sleep  early  at  8  p.m.  From  the 
fact  that  sleep  overpowered  him  three  or  four  times 
this  way,  it  appears  that  today  he  is  more  tired  than 
is  usual.  He  was  also  complaining  of  some  strain  in 
his  legs.  This  may  be  due  to  our  longer  treks  and  the 
severe  cold  these  days.  There  is  a  cut  in  one  of  his 
toes,  which  pains.  Bapuji  walks  barefoot  even  in  this 
cold  weather.  Moreover,  his  soles  have  grown  very 
soft  and  sensitive  to  touch.  The  result  is  that,  with 
the  slightest  friction,  there  is  inevitably  a  new  scratch. 
But  I  can’t  help  it.  I  have  but  to  wait,  watch,  hope 
and  pray.  As  for  the  future,  it  is  beyond  my  ken  or 
anybody’s  for  that  matter. 

“The  economy  of  heaven  is  dark; 

And  wisest  clerks  have  missed  the  mark.” 

as  the  poet  says. 

Komalapur, 

21-2-’47 

Nayakamji  monopolized  Bapuji’s  entire  time 
before  prayers,  as  is  usual  these  days.  He  referred 
at  length  to  the  educational  policies  and  schemes  of 


223  THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 

Maul  an  a  Abul  Kalam  Azad  and  Zakir  Husain 
At  5.30  a.m.  he  took  fruit  juice  and  rested  for  lull  2o 
minutes  from  5-30  a.m.  to  5-55,  as  he  felt  run  down. 
So  I  pressed  his  legs.  Dictated  a  letter  to  Mridula- 
bahen  and  sent  all  the  relevant  letters  through  Bhaira- 
vadanji  who  was  Birlaji’s  assistant.  .  Then  he  began 
to  dictate  a  letter  to  Munnalalji,  which  could  not  be 

completed. 

Lavanyalatabahen  suggested  that  Bapuji  should 
take  a  good  tonic  as  he  often  felt  much  fatigued.  But 
Bapuji  countered,  “There  can  be  only  one  tonic  for 
me  and  that  is  Ramanama.  How  long  my  life 
will  last  is  another  question,  but  with  this  potent 
charm  I  shall  either  never  fall  ill  or,  if  I  do,  I  shall 
be  all  right  within  24  hours,  through  the  spiritual 

might  of  Ramanama  which  is  ingrained  in  my  heart.” 

We  left  Bishakathali  at  7-30  to  reach  here  at  9-15. 
Talks  with  Aryanayakamji  had  continued  along  the 
way.  Our  late  arrival  here  was  due  to  our  halt  at  two 
places  en  route.  As  I  washed  his  feet  Bapuji  corrected 
yesterday’s  report.  The  correction  continued  during 
the  massage  also. 

Bapuji  made  some  changes  in  his  food  today. 
He  took  only  one  khakhara  but  mixed  a  teaspoon  of 
ghee  (from  goat’s  milk)  with  the  vegetable. 

As  Bapuji  was  debilitated  with  fatigue,  I  made 
some  golapapadi\  for  him.  For  some  days  I  churned  curds 
made  from  goat’s  milk  in  order  to  get  sufficient  butter; 
then  I  heated  it  to  make  ghee  for  the  sweet.  It  was 
only  after  I  had  actually  finished  making  the  sweet, 

♦Then  in  charge  respectively  of  the  Education  Portfolio  in 
the  Interim  Government  and  of  basic  education  schools. 

\A  sweet  made  of  baked  wheat-flour,  gur  and  ghee 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


229 

that  I  let  Bapuji  know  of  it  by  showing  it  to  him.  “You 
do  take  gur  and  wheat-flour  preparations,  and  there 
can  be  no  possible  objection  to  taking  ghee  made  from 
goat  smilk.  So  I  have  made  this golapapadi^\  explained. 
I  was  afraid  lest  he  might  refuse  to  eat  the  sweet.  But 
fortunately  for  me  he  accepted  one  small  piece  and 
gave  up  a  fruit  instead. 

Since  you  might  feel  snubbed  and  unhappy,  if 
I  pour  cold  water  over  your  enthusiasm,  I  ate  the 
piece  against  my  own  inclination,”  commented  Bapuji. 

But  don’t  you  be  under  the  delusion  that  your  gola - 
papadi  will  cure  me  of  my  weakness  and  fatigue.  That 
can  be  done  by  one  thing  alone,  i.e.  Ramanama.  You 
too  ought  to  cultivate  that  faith  in  the  Name,  because 
attendance  to  all  the  needs  of  my  outer  self  is  wholly 
in  your  charge  at  present.  Urged  by  love  and  anxiety 
for  my  health  you  made  this  golapapadi  on  your  own ; 
I  had  no  inkling  of  it  till  you  brought  it  to  me.  I 
never  even  knew  till  now  that  you  used,  to  churn  curds 
to  make  butter;  naturally  I  assumed,  when  I  saw  you 
from  a  distance  working  in  the  kitchen,  that  you  might 
be  making  khakharas  or  some  such  thing  for  me.  You 
give  me  this  golapapadi  to  eat  in  order  that  I  may  gain 
vitality,  but  if,  recognizing  the  sovereign  power  of 
Ramanama,  you  take  to  chanting  it  with  the  fullest 
fervour  and  conviction,  I  shall  gain  health  a  thousand 
times  more  than  by  any  other  means.  Ramanama  in¬ 
creases  our  strength  —  spiritual  and  physical  —  as  no¬ 
thing  else  does.” 

That  is  how  Bapuji’s  faith  in  Ramanama  progres¬ 
ses  with  leaps  and  bounds. 

A  letter  to  Kakasaheb  took  up  much  of  his  time. 
Nirmalda  and  Devbhai  share  between  them  reading  to 
Bapuji  his  post  in  Hindi,  English,  Bengali  and  Urdu. 


230 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


His  correspondence  in  English  and  Bengali  is  chiefly 
in  charge  of  Nirmalda,  while  Devbhai  and  Hunnarbhai 
attend  to  his  Hindi,  Urdu  and  some  English  post.  All 
this  has  substantially  lessened  my  work  regarding  his 
mail.  I  deal  with  all  his  Gujarati  letters  and  the  few 
that  he  gets  in  Marathi.  His  personal  letters,  in 
Hindi  or  Gujarati,  he  dictates  mostly  to  me.  Moreover 
the  work  of  copying  his  letters  to  be  despatched  and  of 
keeping  a  chronological  file  of  important  letters  received 
rests  with  me. 

Baba  (Satischandra  Dasgupta)  accompanied  by 
Niranjansing  Gil  arrived  in  the  evening.  Bapuji 
got  the  Bihar  report  today.  It  appears  that  he  might 
decide  to  go  there.  The  report  makes  very  painful 
reading. 

Talks  with  Sardarji  Gil  have  ended  in  his  agree¬ 
ment  today  to  hand  over  the  whole  charge  of 
the  Sikh  brothers  to  Col.  Jivansinhaji. 

A  letter  to  Stanely  Jones  also  was  among  the 
letters  dictated  today.  Nothing  special  to  note 
about  the  day’s  routine.  Bapuji’s  health  is  somewhat 
better  but  the  cut  near  the  toe,  though  better,  has 
not  as  yet  healed  up  entirely.  As  it  is  due  to  the 
cold  weather  it  will  be  all  right  in  time. 

The  passages  which  he  wrote  in  his  letters  to¬ 
day  are  worth  reproducing: 

“From  what  Gil  has  reported  to  me  about  Bihar,  it  is 
possible  that  it  may  be  my  duty  to  go  there.” 

“From  the  behaviour  of  Muslims  here  it  seems  that 
non-violence  will  be  put  to  an  acid  test.” 

“The  speech  delivered  by  the  British  Premier  suggests 
to  my  mind  the  possibility  of  yet  another  war!” 

The  village  has  a  population  of  6,387  souls  of 
whom  2,387  are  Hindus  and  4,000  Muslims. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL  231 

Bapuji  spun  96  rounds  of  yarn.  He  could  go  to 
sleep  only  after  10.30  p.m. 

(Char  Pradesh)  Char  Krishnapur, 

22-2-’47 

Bapuji  misread  the  hands  of  his  watch  today  and 
took  it  to  be  4-10  a.m.  when  it  was  only  2-20.  So  he 
woke  me  up  at  that  early  hour.  Rubbing  my  eyes 
to  ward  off  sleep  I  got  up,  and  gave  him  the  tooth-stick 
and  powder.  With  all  my  efforts  I  could  not  shake 
off  the  feeling  of  sleepiness.  So  I  looked  at  the  watch 
and  found  that  it  was  only  2-30. 1  showed  it  to  Bapuji. 
I  was  immensely  happy  at  the  detection  of  the  error, 
for  I  was  still  feeling  very  very  sleepy.  We  went  to 
sleep  again  to  wake  up  only  at  4  a.m.,  when  Col. 
Jivansinhaji  came,  as  usual,  to  rouse  us. 

Prayers  after  the  mouth-wash  etc.  and  then  the 
warm  water.  Bapuji  utilized  the  time,  which  I  took 
in  extracting  fruit-juice,  in  studying  his  Bengali  lesson. 
It  could  not  be  finished  however  as  the  entire  period 
before  our  start  from  here  was  used  in  replies  to 
Gujarati  letters. 

At  7-35  we  left  Komalapur  and  arrived  at  this 
place  at  8-35.  During  my  preparation  for  his  mass¬ 
age  and  bath,  Bapuji  completed  the  Bengali  lesson  left 
unfinished  on  account  of  talks  with  me  at  Komalapur. 

One  khakhara ,  one  piece  of  golapapadi ,  some 
vegetable  and  6  oz.  of  milk  made  up  his  meal  today. 
Talked  with  Renukabahen  the  while.  When  he  was 
resting  after  the  meal,  I  rubbed  ghee  on  his  legs  and 
he  dictated  to  Rangaswami  letters  in  English  to 
Suhrawardi  Saheb,  Shrikrishna  Sinha  (Chief  Minister 
of  Bihar)  and  Maulana  Saheb.  He  had  a  nap  for  15 
minutes  from  1-15  to  1-30  p.m.  Our  house  here  is 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


232 

overcrowded.  Whenever  I  go  to  prepare  something 
for  Bapuji,  the  ladies  and  the  children  of  the  host  family 
are  sure  to  follow  me.  I  had  to  go  a  long  distance  to 
wash  the  clothes,  as  the  water  nearby  is  very  dirty. 
Late  at  2  p.m.  I  went  out  to  wash  them  along  with  tne 
mealtime  vessels  of  Bapuji,  because  first  I  finished  the 
correspondence  work  with  the  aid  of  Devaprakashbhai 
and  also  my  spinning.  Among  the  workers  who  saw 
Bapuji  were  Amulyabhai  Ghakravarti,  Abhabahen 
Wardhan,  Sudhabahen  Sen  and  Bannerjee. 

When  I  returned  home,  I  saw  Thakkarbapa  and 
Sharadeshanandji  of  the  Ramakrishna  Mission  talking 
to  Bapuji.  Swamiji  had  invited  Bapuji  to  visit  the 
Ramkrishna  Ashram.  Thakkarbapa  appeared  tired. 
Shortly  afterwards,  both  of  them  went  away.  At 
4-30  p.m.  Bapuji  took  8  oz.  of  milk  and  raisins. 
Renukabahen  helped  me  a  good  deal  in  my  work. 
She  is  of  a  very  loving  and  sociable  nature. 

At  the  evening  prayer  meeting  Bapuji  related  a 
beautiful  fable  from  Islamic  mythology: 

“When  Khuda,  they  say,  first  made  the  earth,  it 
was  swaying  violently  from  side  to  side.  To  stabilize 
it  God  fixed  huge  mountains  on  it.  His  angels  there¬ 
upon  asked  Him,  ‘Oh  Lord!  Can  there  be  anything 
among  all  thy  creations  stronger  than  these  gigantic 
mountains?5  ‘Yes,5  replied  the  Lord.  ‘Steel  is  strong¬ 
er,  as  it  can  cut  through  them.5  ‘Is  there  anything 
then  mightier  than  steel?5  was  their  next  question. 
‘Fire,5  answered  the  Lord.  ‘For  it  can  melt  steel.5 
‘Anything  more  powerful  than  fire?5  the  angels 
pursued  their  inquiry.  ‘Water,5  said  the  Lord.  ‘It 
can  quench  fire.5  ‘Anything  that  can  overcome  the 
might  of  water?5  the  angels  asked  then.  ‘Wind,5 
explained  the  Lord,  ‘for  it  can  make  the  water  move 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


233 

or  cause  ripples.5  ‘Anything  superior  to  wind  in 
power?5  came  the  further  question  from  the  angels. 
Yes,  it  is  charity.  If  a  benevolent  person  gives  a 
gift  with  his  right  hand  and  hides  the  fact  even  from 

his  left,  that  large-hearted  man  is  able  to  conquer  one 
and  all.5  55 

Bapuji  proceeded  by  way  of  explanation,  “Every 
good  deed  is  a  work  of  charity.  If  you  accost  your 
brother  with  a  smile,  direct  a  lost  wayfarer  to  the 
right  path,  give  water  to  one  who  is  thirsty, — these  are 
all  charitable  acts.  The  real  wealth  a  man  possesses 
is  the  sumtotal  of  his  good  deeds  towards  his  brother- 
humans  and  fellow-creatures  throughouthis  life.  When 
a  person  dies,  men  will  inquire,  ‘How  much  money  did 
he  leave  behind?5  But  the  angels  in  heaven  will  ask. 
How  many  good  deeds  did  the  man  send  here  during 
his  lifetime?555 

As  this  is  the  region  inhabited  chiefly  by  Namo- 
shudras,  Bapuji  referred  to  them: 

“Events  happen  before  our  eyes  which  definitely 
point  to  the  end  of  the  British  Empire  in  India.  And 
I  prophesy  that,  just  as  the  very  name  British  rule 
will  be  wiped  off  from  Indian  soil,  so  too  will  nemesis 
overtake  Hinduism  and  that  name  too  will  be  effaced 
altogether,  unless  untouchability  is  removed  from  it 
lock,  stock  and  barrel.55 

On  the  subject  of  equal  rights  for  man  Bapuji  said, 
“If  India  wants  to  lead  an  ideal  life  of  freedom,  as 
would  be  the  marvel  and  admiration  of  the  world,  then 
scavangers,  doctors,  lawyers,  teachers,  businessmen  etc. 
—  one  and  all  —  shall  have  an  equal  return  in  wages, 
pay,  food  etc.,  for  their  honest  labour  of  the  day.  I 
have  absolutely  no  doubt  on  this  point.  It  is  possible 
that  Indians  may  not  completely  realize  that  ideal  in 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


234 

actual  practice.  But  it  is  certain  that  every  one  of  us 
will  have  to  keep  that  ideal  as  our  goal  and  act  ac¬ 
cordingly,  if  we  want  to  make  this  land  of  ours  one  of 
all-round  contentment  and  happiness.5 5 

I  have  in  this  way  the  opportunity  to  have  reveal¬ 
ing  glimpses  of  Bapuji’s  penetrating  wisdom  and 
philosophy  on  all  matters  pertaining  to  man  as  an 
individual  or  as  a  social  being. 

After  prayers  Bapuji  conferred  with  Vinabahen 
Basu,  Bailabahen,  Lavanyalatabahen,  Renukabahen 
and  other  lady  workers. 

Our  host  today  is  a  Namoshudra,  Mahananda 
Vaidya.  Though  extremely  poor,  he  has  very  lovingly 
provided  us  all  the  comforts  he  can. 

With  what  overflowing  love  had  Lord  Rama  put 
up  with  Shabari,  the  aboriginal  old  dame!  He  was 
happier  as  a  guest  enjoying  her  frugal  repast  than 
enjoying  the  daintiest  dishes  of  the  royal  palace  of 
Ayodhya.  So  much  so  that  he  had  accepted  even  the 
tasted  and  unclean  berries  with  a  relish  far  greater  than 
what  he  felt  when  having  his  favourite  sweets.  I  see 
today  a  repetition  of  that  incident  in  the  Ramayana; 
Bapuji  was  enjoying  the  hospitality  of  our  host  today 
with  the  same  happiness  and  abandon. 

The  village  comprises  2,500  persons,  of  whom 
300  are  Muslims.  All  the  refugees  have  been  repatri¬ 
ated. 

After  having  a  chat  with  the  host  family  and  even 
playing  with  the  children,  Bapuji  lay  down  at  10  p.m. 
and  listened  to  the  newspapers.  I  rubbed  oil  on  his 
scalp,  pressed  his  legs  and  then  finishing  my  own  sundry 
work  went  to  sleep  at  10-30. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


235 


Charshaladi, 
23-2-’47,  Sunday 

After  morning  prayers,  Bapuji  traced  the  Bengali 
numerals  repeatedly.  It  took  up  a  fairly  long  time  to 
write  the  second  numeral  in  its  right  shape.  He 
made  Shailanbhai  write  down  the  numeral  and  moved 
his  pen  over  it  again  and  again  for  about  ten  times. 
Only  then  did  he  write  the  numeral  by  himself. 
It  was  to  me  a  very  amusing  sight  to  see  aged 
Bapuji  tracing  the  numerals  just  like  a  child  in  its  first 
struggles  with  them. 

Hardly  had  he  finished  when,  taking  up  the 
primer  he  was  at  a  loss  to  know  the  exact  meaning  of 
the  grammatical  form  of  a  word  in  it. 

I,  too,  could  not  make  it  out. 

He  wanted  to  know  the  distinction  between  ‘mV 
and  6nao\  We  jointly  exerted  our  brains  for  full  ten 
minutes,  but  in  vain.  Nirmalda  happened  to  come 
up  just  then.  He,  too,  was  perplexed  for  a  little  while 
but  finally  found  the  answer  and  explained  it  to  us. 
“With  what  accuracy  does  Bapuji  read  even  this 
primer!”  Nirmalda  could  not  help  exclaiming  to 
me.  Thus  he  confounded  even  a  professor  like 
Nirmalda  —  though  just  for  a  short  while  —  about 
a  simple  word  in  a  rudimentary  primer. 

Immediately  afterwards  he  engaged  himself  in 
talks  with  Devabhai,  giving  up  all  rest  today.  He 
explained  to  me  that  he  would  work  here  as  hard  as  a 
basic  education  teacher  should. 

At  7-30  we  left  Charkrishnapur  and  arrived 
here  at  8-30  a.m.  It  was  already  10-30  by  the  time 
he  finished  his  massage,  bath  etc.,  because,  earlier  he 
discussed  the  statement  of  the  British  Government, 
with  Rangaswami. 


236 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


In  his  meal  he  took  some  boiled  wheat-bran, 
vegetable  and  half  an  ounce  of  butter  which  I  had 
churned.  Listened  to  the  post  as  he  ate.  I  went  out 
to  bathe  and  wash  the  clothes.  They  took  more  time 
as  there  were  some  extra  clothes  to  wash  today.  On 
my  return,  I  saw  Bapuji  sound  asleep.  So  I  did  not 
rub  ghee  on  his  legs.  At  12-15  he  woke  up  and  re¬ 
marked,  “I  give  you  full  permission  to  rub  ghee  on  my 
legs  even  when  I  am  sleeping.”  Then  at  3  p.m.  I 
rubbed  it  as  he  lay  with  a  mud-pack  on  his  stomach. 
At  the  same  time  he  read  letters  from  Rajkumaribahen 
and  Maulana  Saheb  brought  by  Nayakamji,  and' 
dictated  some  letters  to  me.  He  also  asked  me  to  copy 
some  important  letters. 

*  *  * 

These  days  Bapuji  especially  remembers  grand¬ 
ma  and  Mahadevkaka.  In  reply  to  his  letters, 
nearly  all  that  he  wrote  today  was  quite  frank  and 
explicit. 

A  small  wart  has  grown  on  Bapuji’s  chin. 
Nripenda  wound  a  horse-hair  tightly  round  its  base. 
At  4-30  p.m.  Bapuji  took  1  khakhara ,  4  almonds,  4  halves 
of  cashewnuts  and  a  few  puffed-rice  grains.  After 
spinning  for  a  while  he  went  to  attend  the  prayers. 

Several  questions  were  put  to  him  there,  one  of 
which  related  to  his  attitude  towards  child  and  widow 
marriages. 

“I  have  very  definite  views  on  this  matter,”  said 
Bapuji.  “There  is  no  possibility  of  a  child-widow  if 
there  is  no  child-marriage.  And  the  custom  of  selling 
a  daughter  which  obtains  among  the  Namoshudras 
should  be  completely  done  away  with.  I  believe  that 
an  individual  should  marry  only  once  in  his  lifetime 
and  I  am  totally  against  civil  marriages.  Where  there 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


237 

is  unity  of  hearts  and  mutual  consent,  why  should  any 
one  go  in  for  a  civil  marriage  at  all?  But  I  am  not 
going  to  enter  into  the  details  of  the  question  here. 
A  religious  ceremony  to  confirm  a  marriage  is  a  differ¬ 
ent  thing  altogether.  It  only  means  that  when  a 
person  is  having  a  ‘new  birth’  by  getting  a  life-partner, 
a  ceremony  is  performed  in  order  to  pray  to  God  and 
invoke  His  blessings.  That  I  like  very  much.  I  know 
that  many  evil  customs  have  crept  into  it,  but  I  don’t 
propose  to  discuss  that  question  here  any  further. 

“Our  journey  will  end  at  Haimchar  and  then  a 
new  stage  will  begin.  I  thank  God  in  all  humility  and 
gratefulness  for  the  successful  termination  of  this  stage 
of  our  pilgrimage.  Thakkarbapa  is  a  servant  of  the 
Harijans  and  even  more.  He  is  your  guide  and  precep¬ 
tor.  He  himself  selected  this  region  as  his  field  of 
service.  Like  the  proverbial  carpenter  who  thinks 
and  dreams  of  nothing  but  the  babul  tree,  he  was  drawn 
to  you  to  live  in  your  midst. 

“Never  degrade  yourselves  by  supposing  that  you 
are  low  or  untouchable.  Neither  legislation  nor  a 
philanthropic  institution  can  bring  about  your  uplift. 
That  lies  in  your  own  hands  and  you  have  to  work 
for  it  yourselves.  Bapa  took  me  round  to  show  the 
havoc  caused  among  you.  It  was  a  sight  that  caused 
me  deep  distress  and  pain.  But  please  do  not  sit  with 
folded  hands  bemoaning  the  devastation  and  giving 
way  to  despair.  Take  courage  and  trust  your  own 
right  arm  to  rehabilitate  yourselves. 

“God  never  fails  to  help  those  people  who  honestly 
labour  and  sweat  for  their  own  amelioration.” 

On  returning  from  the  prayer-meeting  Bapuji 
wrote  some  letters.  His  silence  has  already  begun  and 
an  air  of  stillness  prevails  in  our  house. 


238 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


Its  owner  is  a  carpenter  by  profession  and  a 
Namoshudra  by  caste.  There  are  50  Hindus  here  out 
of  a  population  of  7,668  persons.  Bapuji  spun  90 
rounds  of  yarn  today.  Early  at  9-15  p.m.  Bapuji 
threw  himself  on  his  bed. 

Haimchar, 

24-2-’ 47 

Prayers  as  usual  and  then  his  warm  water  during 
which  he  listened  to  my  diary. 

At  7-^5  we  started  from  Charshaladi.  As  a  mark 
of  their  hearty  welcome,  Malatididi  (Malatidevi 
Chaudhari)  and  her  sister-workers  walked  a  long  dis¬ 
tance  and  met  us  on  the  way  to  escort  Bapuji  to  their 
village.  Our  whole  route  was  then  enlivened  by  the 
melodious  tunes  of  their  morning  hymns.  Even  old 
and  revered  Thakkarbapa  had  come  all  this  long 
distance  with  them  to  welcome  Bapuji  to  his  field  of 
service.  “So  I  am  going  to  be  yoiir  guest  today,” 
remarked  Bapuji  in  a  lively  manner  and  cracked  a 
joke;  “Quite  a  happy  chance! Two  toothless  old  men 
together!  Genial  company!”  And  both  of  them 
laughed  loudly. 

Visited  the  Ramakrishna  Mission  Ashram  on  the 
way.  When  we  reached  Haimchar,  we  saw  that  Bapa 
and  Bisenbhai  had  made  excellent  arrangements  to 
provide  us  all  comforts  during  our  stay  with  them. 
In  the  very  front  of  the  entrance  door,  a  beautiful 
multi-coloured  design  was  drawn  on  the  ground.. 
What  can  there  be  to  say  against  it  as  a  piece  of  art, 
when  ladies  trained  in  the  Gurudeva  Tagore’s  Santi- 
niketan  School  of  Arts  had  worked  at  it  with  all  their 
zeal  and  skill  ?  Malatididi  then  gave  a  religious  slant 
to  the  welcome  greetings.  She  put  on  Bapuji’s  fore¬ 
head  a  vermilion  mark,  fixed  rice  grains  on  it,  sang  a 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


239 


thanksgiving  welcome  song  and  blew  the  auspicious 
conch.  Immediately  on  having  his  feet  washed, 
Bapuji  began  his  writing  work  and  completed  his  letter 
to  Jawaharlalji.  Then  the  inevitable  Bengali  lesson. 
I  had  practically  nothing  to  do  here  to  prepare  for 
Bapuji  s  massage  or  bath,  as  I  saw  that  everything  had 
been  very  well  arranged  even  when  we  arrived.  I  had 
simply  to  set  the  vegetable  to  boil  in  the  cooker.  This 
done,  I  began  straight  away  to  massage  Bapuji.  Ajit- 
bhai  and  his  colleague  helped  me.  After  his  bath 
Bapuji  took  his  meal  of  vegetable,  milk  and  an  apple. 

Ajitbhai  insisted  that  he  should  wash  Bapuji’s 
clothes,  as  he  considered  himself  lucky  to  serve  Bapuji 
in  any  manner  whatsoever.  Great  and  highly  educated 
persons  consider  it  the  chance  of  their  lifetime,  if  they 
get  an  opportunity  to  wash  Bapuji’s  clothes  or  cleanse 
vessels.  For  instance,  it  was  a  very  cultured  lady 
graduate  who  took  it  upon  herself  to  wash  his  utensils. 
In  this  context  Alalatididi  told  me,  £{I  envy  you  your 
luck.  As  long  as  Bapuji  stays  with  us,  you  must  let 
us  serve  him  in  any  way  we  can.”  She  is  really  very 
loving  and  considerate.  Feeds  me  with  a  mother’s 
love  and  remembers  her  daughter  Babubahen  when¬ 
ever  she  sees  me;  never  forgets  to  sour  the  milk  to 
make  curds  for  me;  coaxes  me  to  take  milk  and  has 
even  taught  me  some  Bengali  hymns.  Revered  Bapa 
too  had  the  paternal  kindness  to  arrange  for  my  food 
in  his  special  kitchen.  Thus  I  got  a  chance  to  eat 
lentil,  rice,  vegetable,  thin  full-blown  rotis  and  a  papad* 
in  my  meal  today.  A  cook  has  been  sent  by  Birlaji  to 
prepare  suitable  meals  for  aged  Bapa.  This  was  thus 
my  first  home-type  meal,  ever  since  I  came  here 

*An  extremely  thin  flat  disc  made  from  the  flour  of  spicy 
udad  pulse,  dried  and  then  baked. 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


240 

in  Noakhali  three  months  ago !  After  I  came  back  to 
Bapuji,  I  gave  him  cocoanut-water  at  12-30  p.m.  and 
read  to  him  some  letters  as  he  kept  spinning.  At  3-30 
p.m.  Bapuji  took  2  khakharas ,  some  puffed-rice  grains 
and  cashewnuts.  At  4-15,  he  had  the  mud-pack.  At 
4-45,  attended  prayers.  Then  went  to  see  the  looted 
and  charred  houses  here.  It  was  a  tragic  and  dreadful 
sight.  Ashes  and  charred  remains  of  articles  like  cor¬ 
rugated  iron  sheets  still  lay  scattered  here  and  there. 
All  the  shops  of  the  vegetable  market  have  been  burnt 
to  ashes.  Much  has  been  removed  from  the  scrap- 
heaps  but  much  lies  there  still.  From  there  we  went 
to  visit  the  night-school  which  Sureshbhai  conducts. 

Nirmalda  has  managed  to  look  after  his  own  com¬ 
fort  by  setting  up  a  tent  for  himself.  Only  two  un¬ 
damaged  houses  are  available,  one  of  which  is  occu¬ 
pied  by  Thakkarbapa  and  the  other  by  Bapuji. 
The  pressmen  too  have  had  to  set  up  their  own  tents. 

At  9  p.m.  Bapuji  listened  to  the  papers  and  wrote 
some  letters.  Preparation  for  sleep  at  9-45. 

As  we  are  to  stay  here  for  a  week  and  there  are 
quite  enough  volunteers  eager  to  assist  me,  I  have 
only  some  special  work  to  do.  The  devotion  and  love 
the  brothers  and  sisters  here  have  for  Bapuji  make 
them  feel  blissfully  happy.  They  were  keen  to  serve 
Bapuji  in  every  way  possible. 

Haimchar, 

25-2-’47 

After  giving  Bapuji  honey  in  warm  water  at  the 
end  of  the  usual  prayers,  I  got  to  sleep  for  just  a  while. 
Then  20  minutes  after  the  warm  water,  I  gave  him 
fruit  juice. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


241 

At  7-30,  our  time  to  start  for  our  next  halt 
Bapuji  went  out  for  a  stroll.  Little  girls,  with 
evanathbhai  Das  as  their  leader,  gave  Bapuji  a 
military  salute  and  greeted  him  with  a  very  loud  £Jai 
md  •  Frost  and  cold  delayed  the  massage  progra¬ 
mme,  which  was  begun  at  9-30  today. 

Meal:  Milk,  fruit,  vegetable  and  one  plantain, 
baba  has  come  here  today. 

I  entrusted  .  .  .  the  work  of  reading  the  post  to 
Bapuji  at  midday.  During  that  time  Bapuji  chatted 
with  Malatibahen  and  Renukabahen. 

At  3  p.m.  Bapuji  went  to  a  meeting  called  by 
Nurannabi,  the  Relief  Officer  here.  It  lasted  for  more 
than  an  hour.  Long  winded  speeches  by  the  chairman 
and  otner  speakers  inflicted  a  tedium  upon  the  audi¬ 
ence.  In  a  trice,  Bapuji  caught  the  sense  ot  what  they 
were  driving  at;  but  as  it  would  not  be  good  form  to 
Lave  the  meeting  even  for  a  while,  he  chose  another 
way  to  put  this  spare  time  to  good  use.  In  the  midst 
of  the  bustle,  he  quietly  dozed  off  to  sleep.  And  the 
beauty  of  it  lay  in  the  fact  that  the  incident  revealed 
hi.5  maiveilous  control  over  sleep.  He  had  read  the 
name  of  his  immediate  predecessor  in  the  list  of  spea¬ 
kers,  before  he  dropped  to  sleep.  When  that  speaker  was 
coming  to  the  close  of  his  address  and  as  I  was  just 
going  to  wake  Bapuji  up,  he  himself  opened  his  eyes 
exactly  at  the  right  moment! 

Bapuji  then  said: 

££My  knowledge  of  Bengali  is  nil;  my  voice  by  no 
means  loud  or  powerful.  You  may  have  observed 
that  though  I  heard  the  speeches,  I  also  snatched  a 
nap  for  a  short  while. 

££A11  that  was  said  here  is  but  airy  nothing.  Who 
can  say  for  certain  where  we  shall  reach  or  land  by  a 


242 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 

precarious  flight  in  a  baloon?  With  due  humility  I 
simply  advise  you  to  do  only  that  which  would  give 
tangible  and  immediate  results.  There  is  no  point  in 
conceiving  schemes  too  huge  for  implementation  and 
so  are  destined  to  remain  only  on  paper.  To  do  very 
little  but  to  laud  that  little  to  the  skies  is  a  bad  habit 
with  us.  Over-ambitious  schemes  end  only  in  their 
remaining  on  the  paper  they  are  written  upon;  much 
harm  then  accrues  since  we  lose  the  respect  and 
faith  of  the  masses  in  our  leadership.  .  .  . 

“We  should  analyse  every  one  of  our  acts  by  asking 
our  conscience,  ‘Have  I  committed  a  sin  in  doing  such 
a  thing?5  And  if  it  says,  ‘Yes,  you  have5,  we  should  do 
some  penance.  For  instance,  we  should  not  spit  any¬ 
where  we  like  on  the  road.  When  however  by  force 
of  habit  we  do  spit  somewhere  on  the  road,  we  should 
ask  ourselves,  ‘Did  I  sin  by  spitting  like  that1?5  If  the 
answer  is,  ‘Yes,  you  did  ,  we  should  clean  that  place 
ourselves  at  once,  as  an  act  of  repentance.  That 
penitent  act  will  automatically  ingrain  carefulness 
in  us  and  we  will  refrain  from  committing  that  sin 

in  future.  .  .  . 

“Never  wait  for  approval  or  collaboration  from 
others  in  order  to  do  a  right  deed.  If  we  want  to 
establish  Ramarajya  we  should  go  on  doing  what 
our  conscience  approves  without  minding  in  the  least 
what  others  may  say  about  it. 

“Our  rise  and  prosperity  will  follow  only  when  our 
own  conscience  begins  to  prick  us  for  our  bad  actions 
and  not  when  we  are  afraid  of  public  criticism.55 

At  4-15  p.m.  we  returned  home.  Bapuji  then 
took  one  ounce  of  gur  and  some  milk. 

Several  questions  were  put  to  him  in  the  prayer 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


243 

meeting  today;  two  of  them  withBapuji’s  answers  are 
given  here : 

Qj  •  Don  t  you  feel  that  the  chastity  and  moral 
beauty  of  our  women  will  be  better  preserved,  if  the 
custom  of  the  veil  for  them  is  strictly  enforced? 

^4.:  In  fact,  the  real  purpose  behind  the  custom 
of  the  veil  for  women  is  to  preserve  inner  purity  of  their 
hearts  or  restraint  of  their  passion.  That  woman,  who 
throws  a  veil  about  her  face  for  mere  show  and  at  the 
same  time  looks  at  another  person  with  lustful  eyes 
from  behind  the  purdah,  is  simply  shaming  chastity. 
For  the  same  reason  I  am  opposed  to  the  veil.  More¬ 
over,  it  harms  women’s  health;  they  can’t  get  sufficient 
air  and  light  and  they  remain  disease-ridden.  The 
original  object  behind  the  purdah  system  was  self- 
restraint.  That  woman  alone  observes  it  in  the  right 
spirit,  who  keeps  the  invisible  purdah  of  self-control. 

Q,- :  You  ask  one  and  all  to  do  only  physical 
labour.  Who  will  then  educate  the  young  or  carry 
on  business?  Will  not  your  advice  lead  to  the  des¬ 
truction  of  our  culture  ? 

A.:  The  questioner  does  not  grasp  what  I  say. 
One  shouldn  t  stick  to  the  letter  of  a  statement  but 
try  to  catch  the  spirit  behind  it.  The  elephant-headed 
God,  Ganapati,  presents  a  grotesque  appearance  if 
seen  merely  as  a  figure.  But  viewed  as  a  symbol,  that 
same  figure  sublimates  our  minds.  A  ten-headed 
Ravana  is  apparently  a  fantastic  and  senseless  fancy, 
but  the  representation  suggests  the  sense  that  a  man 
who  has  no  consciousness  of  the  distinction  between 
good  and  evil,  who  doesn’t  stand  by  his  word  and 
always  shifts  his  ground,  who  is  always  on  the  lookout 
for  the  satisfaction  of  his  beastly  passion  or  lust,  is  like 


244 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


a  devil  with  many  heads  full  of  sinister  designs.  In 
short,  he  is  not  a  human  being  with  one  head,  i.e.  with 
any  steadfastness  in  virtue  at  all.  This,  to  my 
mind,  is  the  meaning  of  the  ten-headed  Ravana 
appearing  in  the  Ramayana. 

Legends  and  parables  carry  hidden  meanings. 
In  the  same  way,  when  I  uphold  the  cause  of  physical 
labour,  I  do  not  rule  out  distribution  of  mental  work. 
What  I  mean  to  say  is,  that  there  should  be  the  same 
payment  for  every  one,  whatever  the  type  of  activity. 
The  lawyer,  the  doctor,  the  teacher,  the  scavenger  etc. 
may  each  continue  to  do  his  work  but,  at  the  same 
time,  he  must  get  an  equal  amount  of  money  for  it, 
unlike  the  present  system  by  which  the  scavenger  earns 
eight  annas  per  day  while  the  doctor  can  get  Rs.  800/- 
or  more.  If  we  think  it  over  we  will  surely  realize 
that  both  the  scavenger  and  the  doctor  render  ex¬ 
cellent  and  equal  services  to  society.  Why  then 
should  there  be  this  yawning  gulf  between  their  stand¬ 
ards  of  living?  If  every  one  accepts  this  principle  — 
which  is  based  on  justice  and  equity  —  and  implements 
it  in  his  life,  not  only  will  our  own  State  but  the  whole 
world  rise  spiritually  and  materially  very  high,  and  a 
society  of  happy  human  beings  everywhere  will  be  the 
outcome.  Numerous  instances  can  be  found  in  Britain 
in  which  persons,  who  had  been  scavengers  at  first, 
ended  their  careers  as  distinguished  engineers  or  speci¬ 
alists  in  civic  sanitation  and  hygiene.  But  this  can 
hardly  happen  here  as  long  as  inertia  and  sloth  hold 
us  in  their  grip. 

When  back  at  our  homestead,  Bapuji  discussed  the 
route  of  the  new  stage  of  his  pilgrimage,  as  shown  in 
a  map  brought  to  him  by  Baba.  I  sorted  our  luggage, 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL  245 

retaining  essential  articles  in  my  care,  and  entrusting 
the  rest  to  the  custody  of  Baba. 

At  9-30  p.m.  Bapuji  listened  to  my  diary  up  to 
date,  as  he  lay  down  resting.  As  I  was  reading  it  to 
him,  he  pointed  out  that  I  had  written  the  Relief 
Officer's  name  as  just  Nurannabi.  “You  should  have 
added  some  such  term  of  respect  as  ‘ saheb ’  or  ‘ji’  or 
bhai'  at  the  end  of  the  name,”  he  commented.  “Every¬ 
thing  we  write  must  be  revised  in  order  to  make  sure 

that  nothing  discourteous  or  improper  has  got  in  by 
mistake.5’  * 

I  was  reading  the  entries  in  my  diary  rapidly  as 
it  was  getting  late.  Even  then  he  asked  me  to  repeat 
the  line  which  contained  the  name  (.Nurannabi)  so 
that  he  could  be  certain  that  he  had  heard  the  word 
correctly.  He  showed  me  my  error  only  when 
he  had  no  doubt  about  it,  or  the  ommission. 

Bapuji’s  greatness  as  a  Guru  lies  in  his  fine 
perception  of  propriety  as  shown  here. 

Haimchar, 

26-2-’47 

During  the  usual  prayers,  Bisenbhai  chanted  the 
Gita  canto  today.  A  long  letter — quite  a  booklet — has 
come  irom.  .  .  .  Bapuji  made  me  read  it  to  him  after 
prayers,  as  it  was  meant  for  both  of  us.  “It  serves  a 
double  purpose,”  said  he.  “Both  you  and  I  ought 
to  know  its  contents;  read  it  therefore  and  I  will 
listen.  1  can  then  also  explain  to  you  whatever  you 
can’t  ioIIow  in  the  text.” 

He  went  out  for  a  stroll  at  7-30.  Conferred  with 
local  workers  when  he  came  back.  Amtussalaam- 
bahen  and  Kanubhai  have  arrived  today.  Massage 
at  9-30,  with  half  an  hour’s  nap  during  the  massage. 


246 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


It  took  him  an  hour  to  have  his  bath  etc.  and  get  ready 
for  his  meal.  He  had  only  one  khakhara ,  vegetable  and 
milk  today.  Most  of  the  meal-time  was  spent  in  talks 
with  Amtussalaamabahen  and  Kanubhai,  except  for 
a  short  interval  when  Nurannabibhai,  the  Relief 
Officer,  visited  him. 

Bapuji  attended  a  public  meeting  held  in  the  local 
bazar  at  2  p.m.  When  he  returned  he  had  the  mud- 
packs  and  a  short  nap  as  well.  From  3-45  to  prayer¬ 
time,  he  talked  to  Bapa.  Here  is  something  from 
BapujPs  address  at  the  prayer  meeting: 

“If  we  possess  ordinary  human  qualities  we  need 
not  depend  upon  government  help  in  small  matters. 
For  instance,  there  is  a  rural  road  that  has  to  be  kept 
clean.  If  I  really  love  my  village  and  like  cleanliness, 
I  should  keep  the  road  clean  without  any  outside  help. 
There  are  various  ways  of  petty,  but  very  useful,  social 
service,  such  as  to  stop  spitting  any  and  everywhere, 
to  throw  garbage  only  where  it  should  be  dumped 
etc.  Is  it  necessary  to  go  to  Jawaharlalji,  or  Sardarji,  or 
Jinnah  Saheb  to  make  such  simple  improvements  in 
our  village  ?  If  our  villagers  want  to  be  happy,  they 
should  establish  village  Panchayats,  learn  to  live 
together  in  harmony  and  jointly  shoulder  the  respon¬ 
sibility  of  the  welfare  of  the  entire  village. 

“The  man  whose  aspiration  for  disinterested  service 
is  confined  to  his  own  caste  or  community,  ends 
in  making  himself  as  well  as  his  community  selfish, 
and  anti-social.  Properly  speaking,  selfless  service 
ought  to  result  in  the  individual  giving  up  his  all  for 
his  community,  and  the  community  again  should  be 
thereby  inspired  to  sacrifice  itself  for  the  district,  the 
district  in  its  turn  for  the  province,  and  the  province 
finally  for  the  whole  country.  If  a  single  drop  gets 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


247 


separated  from  the  vast  expanse-of  the  ocean,  it  ceases 
to  be  of  any  use  and  soon  dries  up ;  but  when  a  drop 
becomes  part  and  parcel  of  a  big  ocean,  even  that 
tiny  thing  shares  in  the  burden  of  gigantic  steamers 
that  plough  through  it. 

“An  India  evolved  as  a  result  of  true  freedom  will 
never  fail  to  help  a  neighbouring  country  in  its  times 
of  distress.  Let  us  take  only  our  three  neighbours 
Afghanistan,  Ceylon  and  Burma.  This  rule  of  rushing 
to  the  help  of  a  neighbour  will  assuredly  apply  to  every 
one  of  them.  As  links  of  a  chain,  those  countries 
which  may  be  helped  by  these  neighbours  will  there¬ 
by  become  India’s  neighbours  also.  Thus,  as  I  said 
before,  an  individual’s  self-sacrifice  based  on  discri¬ 
mination  and  wisdom  will  also  mean  service  to  humanity 
as  a  whole,  small  as  his  own  field  of  work  may  be.” 

After  the  prayer  meeting  Bapuji  went  for  a  stroll. 
Took  1  oz.  of  gur 9  8  oz.  milk  and  some  fruits.  His 
spinning  came  to  90  rounds  today.  When  he  returned 
from  his  walk,  he  listened  to  the  papers  and  chatted 
with  Arunanshabhai,  Bisenbhai  and  Amtussalaam- 
bahen.  When  I  was  pressing  his  legs,  .  .  .  happen¬ 
ed  to  be  mentioned  in  our  chat.  On  the  basis  of  his 
case  Bapuji  then  expounded  to  me  a  principle  of  right 
conduct:  .  .  .  wants  to  shift  the  blame  onto  other 

shoulders  and  weaves  a  tangled  web  of  lies  for  the 
purpose;  but,  in  fact,  it  is  he  who  is  at  the  bottom  of 
the  quarrel.  He  is  indeed  imbued  with  a  spirit  of 
service,  but  he  can’t  distinguish  between  right  and 
wrong.  If  discrimination  is  lacking,  a  man’s  work 
often  ends  in  creating  more  problems. 

“For  this  same  reason  even  the  fasts  undertaken 
by  .  .  .  have,  in  my  eyes,  failed  to  bear  good  fruit; 
a  result  of  lack  of  discrimination  and  wisdom.  Man 


248 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


must  always  be  honest  with  himself;  must  learn  to  see 
his  own  error  through  miscroscopic  self-analysis;  and 
look  towards  others’  faults  like  a  man  on  a  hill  top 
viewing  the  person  at  the  bottom.  If  we  make  this 
rule  our  guiding  principle  in  life,  we  can  save  ourselves 
from  countless  sins  and  sorrows.  .  .  .  How  can  he 
ever  be  seized  with  fear,  who  is  really  true  to  himself? 
So  the  first  thing  a  man  should  achieve  is  self-honesty. 

“Occasions  for  telling  lies  arise  out  of  some  fear 
or  greed  for  gain,  or  a  desire  to  screen  one’s  fault. 
But  what  has  he  to  hide,  and  why  should  he,  who  is 
resolved  on  not  allowing  any  kind  of  lapses  to  steal 
into  his  actions  ?  And  if  ever  such  persons  do  some¬ 
thing  wrong,  they  will  gather  together  enough  courage 
to  make  a  public  confession  and  thus  exonerate  them¬ 
selves  from  the  sin.  That  is  the  very  reason  why  only 
yesterday  I  wrote  to  .  .  .  ,Tf  you  see  anything  bad 
in  ...  ’s  behaviour,  you  must  unmask  the  wrong 
and  the  wrong-doers.  The  result  will  be  beneficial 
to  both  the  exposer  and  the  exposed.  The  dirt  or  sin 
ofthebadact  is  thus  washed  off;  the  man  becomes 
clean  again  and  his  soul,  his  heart  and  his  face  resume 
their  pristine  beauty.’ 

“God  never  fails  to  helo  one  whose  motives  are 

\  JL 

pure  and  honest,  and  who  makes  his  conscience  the 
guide  and  arbiter  of  all  his  acts.  This  I  affirm  on 
personal  experiences  here.  The  man  rooted  in  this 
truth  remains  unaffected  by  upheavals,  however  great. 
The  soul-force  of  a  man  of  truth  and  steadfastness 
will  never  languish  under  any  storm,  and  even  that 
which  looks  like  total  failure  is  in  reality  success. 
So,  through  both  the  so-called  defeats  and  victories 
of  such  a  man,  the  world  stands  always  to  gain.  It  is 
because  of  my  actual  experience  of  this  truth  that  I 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


249 

say  that  God  has  been  helping  me  all  along.  On  that 
point  I  have  not  a  shred  of  doubt.” 

Our  departure  for  Bihar  continues  to  oscillate 
between  going  and  not  going.  I  was  with  Bapa  for 
some  time  at  night  and  read  to  him  several  pertinent 
letters.  After  listening  to  some  of  them  he  remarked, 
“There  are  some  things  which  can  be  better  under¬ 
stood  by  a  frank,  heart-to-heart  talk,  than  by  lengthy 
conespondence.  This  I  say  from  my  experience  of  the 
talk  i  had  with  Bapu  today.  Very  often  an  exchange 
of  letters,  instead  of  clearing  the  air,  only  increases 
misunderstandings.  I  feel  light  at  heart  today  as  a 
heavy  load  is  now  off  my  mind,  after  my  talk  with 
Bapu  for  half  an  hour  on  that  disturbing  subject 
and  irom  the  testimony  of  my  own  eyes  about  your 
stay  with  him  here.  It  is  sometimes  very  difficult  to 
understand  Bapu  merely  from  his  correspondence.” 

When  I  returned  from  Bapa’s  presence,  I  saw 
Bapuji  fast  asleep;  and  I  too  was  off  immediately. 

Haimchar, 

27-2-’47 

After  the  usual  morning  prayer  .  .  .  approached 
Bapuji  for  a  talk  with  him,  but  Bapuji  refused  to  talk 
during,  his  Bengali  lesson.  During  his  morning  walk, 
however,  Bapuji  in  his  talks  with  .  .  .  gave  him  a  bit 
of  his  mind :  “You  have  made  a  volte-face  and  are  now 
telling  a  lie.”  He  even  asked  me  to  note  down  the 
talk.  .  .  .  got  still  more  irritated  with  Bapuji,  who 
remarked  to  me,  £T  don’t  mind  at  all.  If  I  don’t 
speak  out  what  appears  true  to  me,  who  else  will  do 
it  ?  Under  the  present  circumstances  it  becomes  my 
duty  to  tell  ...  the  truth  of  the  matter.” 


250 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


8-30  to  11  a.m.,  massage,  bath  etc.  His  meal: 
milk,  vegetable  and  one  plantain.  Due  to  his  many 
engagements  today,  Bapuji  was  able  to  retire  only  at 
1  p.m.!  Then  examined  Amtussalaambahen’s  writ- 
tings  on  Khadi.  At  2  p.m.  had  cocoanut-water.  3-30 
p.m.,  interview  with  Sudhabahen  Sen.  She  stated 
her  fears  about  the  efficacy  of  non-violence  in  the 
case  of  an  assault  from  a  goonda.  Bapuji  gave  her  a 
very  telling  and  epigrammatic  reply.  “The  sword  of 
Ramanama  is  far  mightier  than  that  of  the  finest 
steel.”  Then  spinning,  which  came  to  75  rounds. 

3-40  p.m.  visit  of  Fazlul  Huq  Saheb.  He  was 
wearing  a  garland  oiK arena  flowers  given  by  some  one. 
A  reporter  made  him  pose  for  a  photograph,  when 
the  day  was  burning  hot,  and  the  air  very  sultry. 
Moreover  with  a  body  excessively  fat  and  plump,  he 
had  to  fit  himself  in  Bapuji’s  small  hut! 

I  was  fanning  Bapuji  when  he  came  in.  Bapuji 
asked  me  to  wave  the  fan  in  such  a  way  that  both 
of  them  should  receive  the  breeze.  Even  in  the  midst 
of  their  very  grave  deliberations,  Bapuji’s  attention 
was  drawn  to  the  beads  of  perspiration  forming  along 
that  withered  garland  on  Huq  Saheb.  He  took  it  off 
when  Bapuji  suggested  its  removal. 

The  interview  lasted  till  4-15  p.m.  Huq  Saheb 
was  accompanied  by  Prof.  Mahmud  Azimuddin, 
Mahmud  Saraj-ul-Islam,  and  Mia  Noorezamaan. 
Bapuji  did  not  mince  matters  in  telling  them  what  he 
honestly  felt  ....  After  their  departure  Bapuji  had 
a  handful  of  puffed-rice  grains  and  a  small  bit  of  gola- 
papadi  weighing  about  an  ounce. 

A  building,  where  a  temple  had  stood  once  and 
which  was  ravaged  in  the  recent  communal  riots,  was 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


251 


the  place  of  our  prayer  meeting  today.  Bapuji’s 
prayer  discourse  was  largely  a  continuation  of  what  he 
had  said  yesterday: 

“I  firmly  believe  in  the  truth  that  service  of  the 
neighbour  automatically  means  service  of  the  whole 
world  as  well.  But  there  is  a  proviso  attached  to  it, 
i.e.,  that  the  service  should  be  performed  without  any 
selfish  motive  whatsoever.  This  means  that  such  a 
service  of  the  neighbour  should  never  surreptitiously 
become  a  means  for  undue  gain  to  anybody  or  for 
exploitation  of  others.  People  are  bound  to  be  at¬ 
tracted  towards  such  a  worker,  when  they  observe  his 
entirely  unselfish  service  and  it  is  certain  to  spread. 
In  this  way,  service  will  go  on  automatically  expand¬ 
ing  till  it  becomes  a  field  of  world  service.  The  princi¬ 
ple  that  can  be  deduced  from  all  this  is  that  a  man  who 
simply  serves  his  own  home  or  family  or  nearest  neigh¬ 
bours  without  minding  other  people’s  reactions  to  his 
service,  is  following  in  his  acts  the  true  spirit 
behind  the  ideal  of  Swadeshi.” 

“My  mission  here  is  to  train  people  to  cultivate  a 
courageous  spirit  and  thus  be  bold  and  fearless  men. 
If  you  drive  out  the  fear  that  lies  embedded  in  your 
hearts,  there  is  no  one  on  earth,  strong  enough  to  strike 
terror  in  your  hearts.  Muslims  will  see  that  you  have 
shed  off  cowardice  and  become  brave  men.  Then  they 
will  automatically  become  your  friends.  Heroism 
does  not  lie  in  providing  oneself  with  a  sword  and 
killing  others;  it  lies  in  finding  out  why  a  human  being 
turns  himself  into  an  enemy  of  his  fellowman  and  then 
in  removing  the  cause  of  his  enmity.” 

Turning  then  to  the  topic  of  industrialization 
Bapuji  said,  “America  is  known  to  be  the  most 


252 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


industrialized  country  in  the  world.  Yet  even  there, 
poverty,  dehumanizing  habits  and  deep-seated  evils 
have  not  been  uprooted.  The  reason  is  that  instead 
of  utilizing  the  vast  human  power  which  that  country 
possesses,  it  chose  to  allow  all  power  to  be  concentrated 
in  the  hands  of  a  very  few  multi-millionaires  who  could, 
through  industrialization,  amass  fabulous  wealth  for 
themselves.  So  this  mass-scale  industrialization  of 
America  has  become  a  menace  to  the  poor  people  of 
that  country  itself  as  well  as  to  the  rest  of  the  world. 

“If,  therefore,  India  wants  to  save  herself  from  this 
dire  consequence,  she  will  have  to  adopt  only  those 
things  from  the  West  which  are  healthy  and  beneficial 
to  her  growth  and  to  remain  entirely  aloof  from  the 
very  attractive  and  tempting,  but  in  fact,  disastrous, 
Western  economic  policy.  At  present,  we  organize 
and  pool  the  stupendous  man-power  of  our  40  crores 
and  exploit  it  to  the  utmost  to  export  the  raw  materials 
produced  that  way  and  then  at  exorbitant  rates  spend 
incalculable  sums  of  money  to  get  from  abroad  finished 
products  made  from  our  own  raw  materials.  If, 
instead  of  this  vicious  circle,  our  raw  products  are  bene¬ 
ficially  utilized  through  their  systematic  distribution 
among  our  villages  and  the  finished  goods  are  pro¬ 
duced  through  handicrafts  our  wealth  will  stay  in  our 
country,  and  people  being  usefully  employed  will  have 
no  time  to  spare  for  these  senseless  riots.  Herein  lies, 
to  my  mind,  true  national  economic*  planning.” 

After  the  prayers  the  dictation  of  letters  continued 
non-stop  for  an  hour  and  a  half  or  even  two  hours. 
After  9-25  p.m.  he  found  time  to  listen  to  the  papers; 
and  then  after  some  talks  he  went  to  bed  late  at  10 

p.m. 


/ 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


253 


Haimchar, 

28-2-’47 

After  the  daily  morning  prayers  today,  Bapuji  had 
a  talk  with  X,  whose  mistake  seems  to  have  deeply 
pained  him.  X  approached  Bapuji  to  know  where 
he  had  erred.  Bapuji  thereupon  gave  his  views  upon 
the  matter  and  then  told  me,  “X  wanted  to  know  how 
the  blame  could  be  fixed  on  him.  I  was  amazed  and 
very  sorry  at  this  query.  I  am  more  sorry,  however, 
for  my  own  shortcoming  rather  than  X’s.  A  doubt 
assailed  me.  If  I  was  wrong  in  entertaining  that 
doubt,  its  beginning  arose  from  Y’s  suggestion.  I 
laid  bare  my  doubt  before  X  and  gave  two  instances 
as  the  basis  for  it.  If  X  now  considers  me  as  having 
erred  seriously,  Y’s  fault  in  the  matter  seems  clear.” 

This  is  one  more  instance  to  show  how  Bapu 
blames  himself  even  when  some  other  person  is  clearly 
at  fault. 

Nirmalda  was  disgusted  with  the  whole  affair. 
He  complained  to  me  bitterly,  “They  see  with  their 
own  eyes  that  Bapuji  is  in  the  midst  of  a  burning 
furnace  of  turmoil.  It  passes  my  understanding  how 
they  can  be  blind  to  this  glaring  fact  and  harass  Bapuji 
over  trifles.”  However,  he  was  back  to  his  normal 
cheerful  self  within  a  short  time,  and  with  a  smile  on 
his  face,  said,  Yes,  but  that’s  exactly  where  the  great¬ 
ness  and  the  grandeur  of  the  old  man  lie.  Nothing  on 
earth  is  too  small  or  trifling  for  his  serious  attention 
and  there  is  no  limit  to  his  breadth  of  vision.  That 
is  the  reason  why  he  is  universally  acknowledged  as 
the  one  leader  without  peer.  Otherwise,  there  are 
lots  of  people  as  learned  as  Gandhiji,  and  there  are 
enough  and  to  spare  who  surpass  him  in  looks  and 
charming  manners.  But  there  is  no  one  who  can  come 


254 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


up  to  Gandhiji’s  all-embracing  love  and  largeness  of 

heart.” 

It  now  appears  that  our  departure  for  Bihar  will 
be  fixed  very  soon — within  a  day  or  two.  Bapuji  sent 
a  wire  of  greetings  and  best  wishes  to  Sudhirda  before 
he  started  for  his  walk. 

Much  to  his  dislike,  Bapuji’s  usual  Bengali  lesson 
had  to  be  dropped  this  morning  in  favour  of  a  talk 
with.  .  .  .  Immediately  on  returning  from  his  stroll 
he  spent  20  minutes  writing  in  Bengali. 

Then  his  massage  and  bath.  Nothing  but  vege¬ 
table,  milk  and  a  steam-boiled  apple  for  his  midday 
meal.  Had  talks  about  the  Bihar  imbroglio  and  the 
morning  incident  with.  .  .  .  They  have,  it  seems, 
plunged  Bapuji  in  serious  thought.  I  am  really  afraid 
lest  Bapuji  should  take  a  drastic  step  like  going  on  a 
fast.  Sushilabahen  Pai  and  Satishbabu  are  with  us 
today.  They  showed  Bapuji  the  new  route-map  of 
the  next  stage  of  his  pilgrimage. 

As  he  was  spinning,  the  Personal  Secretary  to 
Dr.  Saiyad  Mahmud,  Shri  Mustafa  Saheb,  who  also 
came  today,  read  to  Bapuji  the  tragic  and  dreadful 
report  of  the  Bihar  riots.  As  he  came  to  that  part  in 
it  where  atrocities  on  women  were  described,  Mustafa 
Saheb  could  not  help  breaking  down.  Bapuji  looked 
very  grave.  The  pain  he  felt  was  visibly  reflected 
on  his  face.  Even  Congressmen  had  joined  in  the 
riots  and  there  was  mutual  carnage.  Instances  of 
the  violation  of  girls  were  many. 

Bapuji’s  heart  bled  at  these  black  deeds  com¬ 
mitted  by  Hindus  in  Bihar.  He  sent  a  wire  to  the 
Chief  Minister  of  Bihar,  through  the  S.D.O.  here, 
asking  for  permission  to  visit  the  place,  as  he  wanted 
to  have  reliable  first  hand  knowledge  of  the  facts. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


255 


This  gave  me  yet  another  instance  of  Bapuji’s  sense  of 
correct  procedure,  and  fairness.  Shrikrishna  Sinha, 
the  Chief  Minister,  is  a  devoted  follower  and  an  old 
colleague  of  Bapuji’s.  Even  so,  Bapu  wired  for  per¬ 
mission.  He  observed,  “I  can’t  go  to  Bihar  just  like 
that.  If  Suhrawardi  Saheb’s  permission  was  necessary 
in  order  that  I  come  here,  then  the  formal  sanction  of 
the  Chief  Minister  of  Bihar  is  equally  essential  before 
I  can  go  there.  The  law  that  applies  to  the  ordinary 
citizen  applies  to  me  also.  There  can  be  no  exemp¬ 
tion  for  me.” 

“But  it  is  you  whose  advice  they  take  in  matters 
big  and  small,  and  you  whom  they  consider  their 
revered  guide  and  elder,”  I  demurred. 

“What of  that?”  countered  Bapuji.  “I  ought  to 
have  the  sense  to  respect  the  Chief  Minister’s  position. 
Whatever  our  private  relations  be,  the  law  is  the 
same  for  one  and  all.” 

This  is  an  illustration  of  Bapuji’s  sense  of  justice. 

At  about  3  p.m.  he  attended  a  meeting  of  local 
workers  and  had  his  mud-pack  at  that  same  place. 
At  4  p.m.  cocoanut-water.  He  took  no  cereals  at  all 
today. 

Addressing  the  Namoshudras  who  attended  the 
prayer-meeting  today,  on  the  subject  of  their  educa¬ 
tion,  Bapuji  said: 

“High-caste  Hindus  alone  are  to  blame  for  the 
indifference  to  education  that  prevails  among  you. 
Hindu  society  has  wilfully  barred  against  you  all 
doors  to  a  higher  status.  But  now  you  must  completely 
banish  from  your  minds  the  idea  that  you  belong  to  a 
low  caste.  Only  then  will  you  be  able  to  raise  your 
social  and  economic  status. 


256 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


“But  I  am  here  today  to  speak  on  a  different  subject. 
News  comes  that  the  Hindus  of  Bihar  have  committed 
crimes  that  throw  into  the  shade  those  committed  in 
Noakhali  and  Tripura.  I  had  thought  till  now  that 
I  could  serve  Bihar  quite  well,  while  remaining  in  your 
midst  to  help  you;  but  the  Personal  Secretary  of 
Dr.  Saiyad  Mahmud,  Shri  Mustafa  Saheb,  just  brought 
a  letter  from  the  doctor,  who  writes,  Tf  you  come  over 
to  Bihar  the  situation  will  improve  immensely,  and  the 
Muslims  will  be  convinced  that  your  heart  burns  in 
sympathy  for  all  the  afflicted,  whether  they  be  Hindus 
or  Muslims.5  I  have  therefore  sent  an  urgent  wire  for 
permission  to  go  there.  That  means  that  my  pilgri¬ 
mage  on  foot  through  the  rest  of  Noakhali  and  Tripura 
will  have  to  be  postponed  for  some  time.  I  appeal 
to  you  all  to  live  in  peace  and  harmony,  just  like  bro¬ 
thers,  during  my  absence.  I  shall  have  to  leave  you 
but  my  heart  will  always  be  with  you. 

“As  for  the  Englishman,  there  is  not  an  iota  of  doubt 
that  he  will  quit  our  land.  It  is  therefore  high  time 
for  Indians,  of  all  castes,  creeds  and  parties  in  India, 
to  resolve  to  live  amicably  with  one  another.  If  we 
can’t  do  this  a  calamity  of  frightful  fratricidal  wars 
will  descend  upon  us,  and  we  shall  end  in  making 
mince-meat  of  our  country.  Nobody  will  gain  anything, 
we  shall  be  the  butt  of  ridicule  and  contempt  for  the 
world.  It  is  at  this  perilous  moment  the  duty  of 
every  Indian  to  seriously  think  about  and  guard 
against  these  dire  possibilities.55 

During  his  evening  walk  Bapujimade  a  humorous 
remark : 

“Only  this  afternoon,  the  programme  for  our 
trek  through  Tripura  was  settled;  but  like  Rama, 
who  was  exiled  in  the  morning,  though  complete 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


257 


arrangements  had  been  made  for  his  coronation  the 
previous  night,  all  my  plans  have  been  upset  within 
a  few  hours.” 

We  saw  several  burnt  down  houses  along  the 
route  of  our  evening  walk.  Bapuji  did  not  eat  any¬ 
thing  after  his  return.  He  personally  enquired  after 
the  comforts  to  be  provided  to  Mustafa  Saheb5  such 
as  food,  lodging  etc.,  and  had  excellent  arrangements 
made  for  him  during  his  stay  with  us.  Then  he  revised 
his  prayer-speech,  dictated  letters  to  Rangaswami. 
Before  he  went  to  bed  at  1 1.30  p.m.  he  told  me,  “Keep 
our  kit  packed  and  ready.  But  take  the  absolute 
minimum  and  entrust  the  -rest  of  the  luggage  to 
Satishbabu.” 


Haimchar, 
l-3-547,  Saturday 

Bapuji  got  up  early  at  3-45  a.m.  today.  Said 
Ramanama  with  the  aid  of  his  rosary.  Then  awak¬ 
ened  .  .  .  and  talked  to  them.  Pointing  out  to  them 
their  path  of  duty  he  said,  “Only  if  you  have  faith  in 
me,  you  may  continue  to  work  here  in  Noakhali  with 
your  mind  fixed  on  the  work.  And  there  should  be 
neither  inertia  nor  vacillation  either  in  your  work 
or  attitude.  If  you  can’t  do  this,  and  can’t  stop  criti¬ 
cizing  me,  better  leave  me  altogether.  My  powers 
of  explaining  my  conduct  are  now  coming  to  an  end.” 

After  morning  prayers,  he  had  honey  in  warm 
water  and  then  pineapple  juice.  Dictated  letters  to 
Hunnarbhai  in  Urdu  to  Razullarahman  Ansari  Saheb 
and  others,  and  signed  them  himself  in  Urdu. 

Visited  a  home  for  the  destitute  during  his  mor¬ 
ning  walk  and,  taking  in  all  an  hour  and  a  half,  re¬ 
turned  at  8-45  a.m.  Dozed  off  for  a  few  minutes 
L-17 


258 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


during  the  massage,  which  was  all  to  the  good,  as 
he  got  up  very  early  today.  On  the  one  hand  there 
is  Bihar  in  a  turmoil ;  on  the  other,  there  are  so  many 
matters  of  varying  urgency  and  importance  which 
demand  his  close  attention.  Nothing  at  all  has  been 
heard  from  Patna  as  yet.  During  his  bath  Bapuji  said, 
“Answer  or  no  answer  from  Patna,  we  shall  have  to 
depart  tomorrow  at  the  latest;  keep  your  kit  in  com¬ 
plete  readiness.”  Bapuji  is  concerned  about  the 
absence  of  a  reply  from  Bihar,  as  it  is  now  24  hours 
since  he  wired. 

.  In  the  afternoon  I  prepared  for  Bapuji  and  for  the 
rest  of  the  party  separate  tiffins  for  our  journey.  For 
Bapuji  I  made  golapapadi  and  khakharas ,  for  us  kha - 
kharas  made  out  of  dough  seasoned  with  cocoanut 
oil.  Practically  the  whole  of  the  midday  was  spent 
in  these  preparations.  Bapuji  took  only  vegetable, 
milk  and  fruit  today  also.  Had  talks  with  Bapa. 
Swamijis  of  the  Ramakrishna  Mission  visited  Bapuji 
at  2  p.m.  Spinning  from  3-30  to  4  p.m.  and  then  the 
mud-pack. 

As  he  was  proceeding  towards  the  prayer-meeting, 
he  saw  Mridulabahen  coming  towards  him  to  see 
him.  There  are  four  overseas  students  with  her. 

Mridulabahen  has  brought  with  her  quite  a 
bundle  of  letters  from  Delhi  such  as  those  from 
Panditji  (Jawaharlalji)  and  Khansaheb  (Frontier 
Gandhi).  She  also  related  to  Bapuji  the  latest  deve¬ 
lopments  in  Delhi.  He  was  engaged,  after  the  prayers, 
almost  wholly  in  talks  with  her. 

Kanubhai  returned  to  his  village.  Bapu  ate  one 
plantain  and  drank  some  milk  in  the  evening.  There 
seemed  to  be  no  end  to  the  string  of  visitors  at  night. 
Bisenbhai  and  I  kept  awake  far  into  the  night  to  finish 


the  fiery  ordeal 


259 


packing  our  luggage.  Both  he  and  Ajitbhai  never 
spared  themsdves  and  helped  me  to  the  utmost. 
Nirmalda  too  was  fully  absorbed  in  the  work  entrust¬ 
ed  to  him.  He  is  working  all  the  time,  with  deep 
concentration,  and  makes  no  distinction  between  dav 
and  night.  He  saves  Bapuji  much  trouble,  as  he 
shoulders  three  quarters  of  his  work.  Till  11-30 
p.m.  he  was  seen  sitting  in  the  midst  of  a  crowd  of 
visitors.  Then  will  come  the  turn  of  press  reporters 

S‘  “g  !n  hls  tent  1  writing  this,  my  diary.P  Most 
of  the  luggage  too  was  packed  here,  in  his  tent  in 
order  to  save  Bapuji  from  noise  and  disturbance’ 

to  sleep!  ^  ^  midniglU'  1  to°  am  dropping ‘off 

Haimchar, 

2-3-’47 

Baba  (Satishbabu)  had  come  late  at  night.  Bapuii 
and  myself  were  then  fast  asleep  and,  with  the  Ifoht 
put  out,  our  room  was  pitch  dark.  It  must  be  about 
12-30  a.m.  when  he  came.  I  too  was  thoroughly  out ' 
So,  though  it  was  probably  only  about  half  an  hour 
since  I  had  fallen  asleep,  it  seemed  to  me,  when  I  found 
myself  awake,  that  hours  had  flown  past.  Baba  had 
drawn  up  the  mosquito  net  and  had  roused  Bapuji. 
Sounds  of  their  talk  reached  my  ears  and  I  woke  ub 
with  a  start.  Immediately  then  I  stood  up  for  I  feared 
that  Bapuji  must  have  already  finished  his  morning- 
mouth-wash  and  even  said  his  prayers;  he  must  not 
have  awakened  me  I  thought,  to  show  his  resentment 
at  my  keeping  late  hours  last  night.  Hurriedly  I  went 
to  fetch  my  own  tooth-stick,  but  Bapuji  laughed  and 
said,  It  is  too  early  still  for  the  mouth-wash.  Go  back 
to  bed.”  As  I  was  feeling  very  sleepy,  I  flung  myself 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


260 

on  my  bed  again  without  much  ado,  and  fell  asleep 
immediately.  I  don’t  know  when  Baba  went  away, 
but  I  learnt  afterwards  that  he  had  come  to  inquire 
what  was  to  be  done  in  view  of  the  absence  of  any 
wire  from  Bihar. 

The  usual  routine  of  prayers  and  the  Bengali 
lesson.  Gave  his  autograph  to  Bapa’s  cook  for  a  fee 
of  Rs.  5  (for  the  Harijan  fund).  Wrote  to  Pyarelalji. 
It  has  been  settled  that  we  start  for  Bihar  at  2  p.m. 
today.  After  the  massage  and  bath,  talks  with  Mri- 
dulabahen  and  then  with  Bapa.  These  latter  continued 
even  during  his  meal,  in  which  he  had  1  khdkhdTd , 
vegetable  and  milk. 

Bapuji  appears  to  be  somewhat  relieved  mentally, 
as  he  was  finally  able  to  settle  his  departure  for  Bihar 
and  also  been  able  to  unburden  his  heart  in  a  very 
frank  talk  with  .  .  .  and  all  the  others  as  well.  Every 
available  space  was  filled  to  capacity  with  persons  who 
wanted  to  have  Bapuji’s  darshan .  Ajitbhai  was  very 
eager  to  go  with  us  to  Bihar,  but  Bapuji  asked  him  to 
stick  to  his  post  and  work  here. 

At  12.30  p.m.  I  counted  all  the  packages  and 
entrusted  them  to  the  charge  of  Col.  Jivansinhaji. 
All  told,  there  were  twenty  packages,  big  and  small.  I 
have  kept  with  me  six  articles:  One  big  bag,  con¬ 
taining  a  shoulder-bag  of  Bapuji’s  papers;  a  water- 
bottle,  a  spittoon  etc.,  a  hat  of  the  Noakhali  type,  the 
spinning-wheel,  a  small  cane  basket  containing  vessels 
for  Bapuji’s  food,  and  a  very  small  bedding  and  of 
course  his  stick.  The  rest  of  the  luggage  has  already 
been  sent  in  advance. 

After  arrival  in  Chandpur 
Before  I  left  Haimchar,  I  had  gone  to  Thakkar- 
bapa  to  get  his  blessings  on  my  departure. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


261 


Revered  Bapa  dictated  a  letter  to  me.  When  I 
bowed  down  to  him,  he  gave  me  his  blessings  with  a 
heart  lull  of  love  and  said,  “I  am  really  delighted  with 
your  way  of  serving  Bapu.  It  was  a  golden  deed  you 
performed  today.  May  God  make  you  happy  all 
your  life!  I  knew  your  grandpa,  Amritlalbhai.  He 
was  a  very  amiable  man.  We  were  on  very  close 
terms  during  our  stay  together  in  Navi  Bandar. 
Jayasukhial  (Manubahen’s  father)  was  then  a  tiny  tot. 
Your  grandfather  was  a  godly  man  whose  memory 
is  a  spiritual  tonic.” 

As  Bapa  had  some  trouble  with  his  eyes,  he  told 
me,  “I  want  you  to  write  a  letter  for  me,  if  you  have 
some  time  to  spare.”  There  were  only  ten  minutes 
to  go  for  departure,  but  he  hurried  through  the  dic¬ 
tation  and  gave  me  a  copy. 

Then  both  Bapa  and  I  went  to  Bapuji.  It  was 
a  very  soul-uplifting  scene  —  this  meeting  of  revered 
Bapa  and  Bapuji.  How  could  Bapa  have  dreamt  that 
he  would  be  obliged  to  bid  adieu  to  Bapuji,  so  soon 
and  suddenly?  But  our  stay  with  him  for  a  week 
made  Bapa  extremely  happy  and  pleased;  and  both 
the  great  persons  understood  each  other’s  attitudes 
and  behaviour-patterns.  So  it  ended  in  satisfaction 
to  all  concerned. 

Bapuji  had  finished  his  daily  spinning  at  Haim- 
char.  I  had  prepared  some  mud  for  instant  application 
and  I  carried  it  with  me. 

At  2-10  p.m.  sharp,  we  started  in  a  jeep  for  Chand- 
pur.  The  women  of  the  host  family  put  a  vermilion 
mark  on  Bapuji’s  forehead  and  made  other  auspicious 
omens  to  wish  him  God-speed  and  good  luck  in  his 
mission.  We  too  were  given  curds  and  pieces  of 
crystal-like  rock  sugar,  as  it  is  considered  auspicious 


262 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


to  eat  them  at  the  start  of  a  journey.  Our  jeep 
carried  Bapuji,  Mridulabahen,  Charuda,  Devbhai 
and  myself.  Even  in  his  sitting  posture  in  the  jeep 
Bapuji  dozed  off  to  sleep  for  half  an  hour.  We  had 
to  get  into  a  boat  to  cross  a  river  on  the  way.  Our 
jeep  also  was  lifted  into  the  boat. 

We  came  up  here  exactly  at  3.40  p.m.  From  the 
peace  and  quiet  of  the  village,  we  found  ourselves 
thrown  into  the  noise  and  bustle  of  a  big  town.  We 
had  to  foot  it  for  a  short  distance  to  reach  Babu  Har- 
dayal  Nag’s  residence.  Bapuji  had  come  to  this  very 
house  twenty  years  ago.  “Some  alteration  seems  to 
have  been  made  to  the  building,”  observed  Bapuji. 
There  was  a  surging  sea  of  men  who  had  come  to  have 
his  darshan.  It  took  us  10  minutes  to  cut  across  this 
seething  mass  of  humanity  to  reach  the  house. 

On  arrival,  Bapuji  washed  his  hands  and  face 
and  then  drank  some  cocoanut  water.  Sardar  Jivan- 
sinhaji  was  controlling  the  vast  concourse  fairly 
successfully  but  had  shouted  himself  hoarse  in  order 
to  do  it. 

Mirdulabahen, —  as  is  her  nature  —  was  extremely 
helpful  to  me.  She  told  me,  “Bapuji  must  be  spared 
all  possible  trouble,  and  at  any  cost  to  us.  Just  let 
me  know  whatever  you  want  and  I  will  get  it  for  you.” 
Bapuji  dictated  to  her  letters  to  Khansaheb  and  others. 
Had  mud-packs  on  his  eyes  and  head.  The  arrange¬ 
ments  here  are  good.  We  are  taking  a  steamer  to 
Goalando  which  starts  at  9  p.m. 

After  a  tramp  on  foot  through  nearly  50  villages 
in  Noakhali,  we  have  changed  our  mode  of  travelling 
and  we  now  move  about  in  vehicles. 

Bapuji  got  up  at  4-30  p.m.  and  started  for  the 
prayer-meeting.  Instead  of  going  there  in  a  car,  he 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


263 

chose  to  walk  the  distance,  so  that  the  people  could 
have  his  darshan  and  thus  feel  satisfied.  There  was  a 
stiictly-guarded  cordon  on  both  sides  of  him  to  let  him 
pass  on.  Bapuji  had  two  £human  sticks’— Mrudula- 
bahen  and  myself— for  support,  as  he  walked.  Attired 
in  their  richest  saris  reserved  only  for  gala  celebrations, 
women  were  showering  flowers  and  rice-grains  from  the 
windows  of  houses  on  both  sides  of  the  road.  At 
some  places  could  be  heard  sounds  that  signify  an 
auspicious  event.  The  entire  road  was  strewn  with 
flowers ! 

The  meeting  was  very  noisy  at  first,  but  quiet-  began 
to  prevail  as  Ramadhuna  was  begun  at  Bapuji’s  sugges¬ 
tion.  All  the  items  of  the  prayer  could  then  be 
conducted  fairly  well,  but  only  by  me,  as  Shailanbhai 
had  lost  his  voice  in  shouting  to  the  people  to  keep 
quiet.  He  is  with  us  in  his  official  capacity  as  an  A.P.I. 
reporter,  but  has  merged  himself  with  us  completely. 
In  fact,  all  the  press  reporters  have  become  part  of  our 
family, —  so  loving  are  our  mutual  relations, —  but 
Shailanbhai  is  of  special  help  in  conducting  the  pray¬ 
ers. 

After  appealing  to  the  people  to  keep  silent, 
Bapuji  said: 

“I  have  attended  meetings  larger  than  even  this 
and  have  seen  perfect  silence  prevail  in  them.  It  pains 
me  to  have  to  speak  in  a  language  other  than  yours 
but,  if  I  return,  I  hope  to  be  able  to  address  you  in 
Bengali.  I  am  not  a  stranger  to  this  town,  Chandpur. 

I  had  come  here  once  in  the  company  of  the  Ali  Bro¬ 
thers  when  Babu  Hardayal  Nag  was  alive.  My 
return  here  makes  me  both  happy  and  grieved.  As 
I  moved  among  the  villages  here,  I  met  people 
weeping  and  wailing.  But  what’s  the  use  of  loud 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


264 

heart-rending  laments?  It  is  the  inevitable  destiny  of 
all  of  us  to  set  out  on  that  same  journey  sooner  or  later. 
This  is  the  sacred  land  of  Babu  Hardayal  Nag  of  hal¬ 
lowed.  memory.  Our  lives  are  worthwhile  only  when, 
inspired  by  his  example,  we  leave  to  posterity  a  recoid 
of  similar  service.  cWhat  has  brought  me  to  Chand- 
pur?’  you  will  ask.  Two  stages  -of  my  pilgrimage 
have  already  ended.  When  the  third  was  to  begin, 
Dr.  Saiyad  Mahmud  Saheb’s  Secretary  brought  a 
letter  requesting  me  to  go  to  Bihar.  I  am  here  on 
my  way  there. 

“Just  as  a  Hindu’s  death  makes  me  feel  as  if  I  had 
lost  a  brother,  so  does  a  Muslim’s.  All  of  us,  without 
exception,  are  but  children  of  the  same  heavemy 
Father.  That  was  why  I  visited  Noakhali  and  Tripura 
districts.  And  that  is  why  I  now  go  to  Bihar.  I  will 
neither  rest  myself,  nor  will  I  let  others  rest,  as  long 
as  complete  peace  and  fraternity  are  not  re-established 
in  our  land.  Even  if  I  am  left  severely  alone,  I  will 
continue  to  shout  from  the  house-tops  my  appeals  for 
communal  amity  and  peace. 

“I  have  some  influence  in  Bihar;  I  hope  I  shall  be 
able  to  finish  my  work  there  very  soon  and  return  here 
in  your  midst.  In  the  meanwhile  I  ask  you  to  prove 
the  truth  of  these  well-known  lines  of  poet  Iqbal: 

Religion  teaches  love,  not  hate; 

Of  many  creeds  we’re  brothers  still;  " 

Indians  we’re  all  at  any  rate; 

India  is  ours;  love  her  we  will.” 

On  his  return,  Bapuji  ate  a  piece  of  sandesh  made 
out  of  goat’s  milk  especially  by  the  ladies  of  the  host 
family  for  him.  They  wished  that  one  of  them  should 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


265 


carry  Bapuji’s  food  to  him  in  their  own  plate.  So  I 
placed  some  grapes,  a  piece  of  sandesh  and  8  oz.  of  milk 
in  their  plate  and  sent  it  to  Bapuji  through  a  small 
girl  of  the  family. 

Bapuji  took  his  food  from  the  plate  carried  to  him 
by  the  girl  child,  in  order  to  comply  with  the  wishes 
of  the  host  family.  ' 

Bapuji  was  thoroughly  fagged  out  today. 

Quite  unexpectedly  a  special  steamer  drew  up  at 
the  bank.  It  was  an  excellent  thing  that  Mridula- 
bahen  did  when  she  seized  the  opportunity  and  en¬ 
gaged  the  steamer  for  Bapuji’s  journey.  Otherwise, 
we  would  have  had  to  travel  by  the  ferry-steamer 
amd  Bapuji  would  have  been  deprived  of  sleep  during 
the  journey. 

Bapuji’s  silence  has  begun.  I  was  to  board  the 
steamer  much  earlier  than  he.  So  at  8  p.m.  I  gave  to 
Mridulabahen  those  things  he  would  need  during 
my  absence  from  him.  Then,  after  rubbing  him  with 
mosquito-warding  ointment  and  taking  with  me  all 
the  luggage,  I  boarded  the  steamer.  Immediately 
afterwards,  I  spread  his  bed  in  his  cabin  and  placed 
at  hand  the  tooth-stick  and  other  necessities  for  the 
morning. 

At  10  p.m.  Bapuji  arrived  aboard.  Mridula¬ 
bahen  accompanied  him.  In  his  cabin  he  had  long 
ctalks-in-writing’  with  Col.  Jivansinhaji  as  he  was 
observing  silence.  Among  those  who  came  to  see  us 
off,  there  were  Gharuda  and  Col.  Jivansinhaji  with 
both  of  whom  our  relations  had  become  close,  like 
those  between  members  of  a  family.  We  had  lived 
together  for  about  two  months  and  a  half.  They 
were  almost  overwhelmed  with  emotion  when  they 
bid  us  adieu.  They  went  away  at  1 1  p.m.  and  the 


266 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


steamer  started.  Only  at  11-30  p.m.  could  Bapuji  get 
to  sleep.  He  was  dead  tired.  I  rubbed  oil  on  his 
scalp,  pressed  his  legs  and  bowed  down.  After  many 
days  Bapuji  again  gave  me  a  sound  but  loving  pat 
on  my  back.  He  wrote  in  a  chit: 

“At  Haimchar  Bapa  was  highly  gratified  with  you 
and  your  method  of  service  to  me.  He  even  told  me  so. 
But  I  was  particularly  satisfied  with  the  fact  that  I  could 
clarify  my  stand  quite  successfully  to  Bapa  during  our  stay 
with  him  for  a  week.  As  a  result,  he  divested  his  mind  of 
some  prejudices.  He  is  superb  in  his  selflessness  and  humili¬ 
ty.  In  all  these  days,  you  know,  only  once  did  he  come  to 
talk  with  me  and  that  too  for  just  a  short  while.  He  never 
wasted  my  time  unnecessarily.  That  is  the  typical  consider¬ 
ate  Bapa  —  a  man  whom  none  can  equal.  If  ever  he  realizes 
that  he  has  erred,  he  never  hesitates  to  recant  immediately. 
I  am  really  glad  that  you  were  of  some  service  to  him  also. 
That’s  why  I  encouraged  you  in  the  matter.  Leave  your 
diary  with  me  tomorrow,  as  I  have  not  read  it  for  the  last 
two  days.  I  shall  read  it  to  the  end  tomorrow  morning  after 
prayers.” 

It  is  12-30  a.m.  now  and  I  am  completing  my  diary 
for  today,  sitting  outside  Bapuji’s  cabin.  Before  coming 
out  I  had  pressed  his  legs,  dropped  the  mosquito  net, 
put  out  the  light  in  the  cabin  and  closed  it.  I  had 
recorded  events  up  to  4-30  p.m.  at  Chandpur;  and 
now  I  finished  the  report  for  the  whole  day  on  board 
this  steamer  which  takes  us  to  Goalando  from  Chand¬ 
pur.  Bapuji  spun  88  rounds  today. 

(In  the  steamer  from  Chandpur  to  Goalando, 

3-3-’47) 

After  the  mouth-wash,  and  the  morning  prayers, 
which  ended  just  now,  I  gave  Bapuji  honey  in  warm 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


267 

water.  Before  I  finished  preparing  fruit-juice  for  him, 
Bapuji  had  completed  his  Bengali  lesson  and  was 
already  engaged  in  his  correspondence  work.  He  was 
so  absorbed  in  writing  that  he  did  not  see  me,  though 
I  was  standing  by  him,  ready  with  the  juice,  for  the 
last  ten  minutes.  His  silence  also  continues.  At  last  I 
had  to  call  him  twice  to  draw  his  attention.  I  handed 
him  the  glass  which  he  took  with  a  smile,  and  he  was 
soon  back  to  his  work.  ...  He  dropped  off  to  sleep 
while  writing. 

Iam  writing  this  diary  as  Bapuji  is  relaxing  for  a 
while.  The  night  passed  off  in  happy  sound  sleep. 
It  s  a  pleasant  quiet  trip.  The  opposite  bank  presents 
a  very  charming  scenic  view.  It  is  7-15  a.m.  just 
now. 

At  7-30  Bapuji  got  up  to  have  a  stroll.  Bapuji 
and  I  were  pacing  up  and  down  the  deck;  he  was 
walking  very  fast  in  complete  silence,  when,  in  a  short 
while,  those  press  reporters,  Shailanbhai  and  others — 
who  were  journeying  with  us  joined  Bapuji.  Nirmalda 
too  joined  us  for  a  short  time.  A  steamer,  resounding 
with  cries  of  ‘Mahatma  Gandhi  ki  jai5,  came  up  from 
the  opposite  bank  and  joined  us.  Two  steamers  were 
thus  moving  side  by  side  on  the  big  broad  river.  Our 
Captain  informed  me  that  the  passengers  of  the  other 
steamer  had  come  specially  to  greet  Bapuji.  Standing 
on  the  deck  he  joined  his  palms  by  way  of  salutations 
to  them.  The  sun  was  just  rising  and  its  golden  rays 
were  falling  direct  on  Bapuji’s  radiant  face.  The 
bank  presented  an  exceedingly  lovely  sight  and  the 
river  was  flowing  quietly  with  a  musical  rhythm. 
With  this  scene  in  the  background,  Bapuji  stood  with 
palms  joined  to  pay  respect  to  the  passengers  on  the 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


268 

other  steamer  and  they,  in  grateful  response  sent  forth 
sky  high  shouts  of  victory  to  him. 

I  had  not  to  wash  his  leet  today.  By  the  time 
Bapuji  completed  his  letter  to  ...  I  made  things 
ready  for  his  massage  and  bath.  At  10  a.m.  he  came 
out  of  the  bathroom,  and  took  his  meal  of  vegetable, 
one  khakhara ,  and  a  piece  of  sondesh ,  made  yesterday 
by  our  host  family,  in  place  of  the  milk.  This  last 
was  at  once  a  choice  and  a  necessity,  since  goat’s  milk 
is  unavailable  on  the  steamer.  At  11  a.m.  Mridula- 
bahen  came  up  to  continue  her  deliberations  with 
Bapuji,  and  I  went  away  to  fold  Bapuji’s  clothes  etc. 
and  to  wash  some  others.  Then  I  arranged  in  good 
order  all  the  other  articles  that  were  unpacked  and 
lying  at  sixes  and  sevens.  It  was  1  p.m.  by  that  time. 

1  gave  Bapuji  a  mud-pack  and  rubbed  ghee  on  his 
legs.  In  that  reclining  position  he  finished  the  Bengali 
primer.  At  2  p.m.  he  got  up  and  had  cocoanut-water. 

At  2-30  p.m.  sharp  we  reached  Goalando.  A  very 
large  crowd  of  people  thronged  the  steamer  to  receive 
Bapuji.  The  fine  sand  which  we  were  trading  on  was 
burning  hot  and  above  our  heads  was  the  blazing  sun. 
When  we  got  into  the  railway  train,  we  saw  Kakasaheb 
already  sitting  in  our  compartment.  He  had  come  to 
meet  Bapuji.  We  first  made  Bapuji’s  seat  comfort¬ 
able  and  then  fetched  our  luggage,  all  by  ourselves. 
At  3  p.m.  the  train  started.  Bapuji  and  Kakasaheb 
were  plunged  in  long  talks,  but  it  was  a  c  talk-in-writing’ 
on  Bapuji’s  side,  as  his  silence  has  not  ended.  At 
4-30  p.m.  Bapuji  took  2  cashewnuts,  2  almonds  and 

2  khakharas .  Further  talks  had  to  be  postponed  as, 
after  his  meal,  Bapuji  lay  down  to  rest  with  mud-packs 
on  his  burning  eyes.  I  was  busily  engaged  in  taking 
out  things  from  packages  and  packing  them  again. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


269 


At  7  p.m.  his  silence  ended.  Every  one  of  the 
press  reporters  who  were  with  us  so  long,  came  now  to 
bid  Bapuji  farewell;  it  is  possible  that  under  the  new 
situation  they  may  not  be  assigned,  by  their  bosses,  the 
work  of  covering  Bapuji’s  movements.  We  all  prayed 
together  for  the  last  time  and  with  a  voice  choking  with 
emotion  they  sang  Bapuji’s  beloved  song,  “The  Lonely 
Pilgrim”.  Tears  glistened  in  the  eyes  of  every  one 
present. 

Talks  with  Kakasaheb  were  renewed  after  prayers 
and  then  Bapuji  rested.  We  arrived  at  Sodepur  at 
9-30  p.m.  I  spread  Bapuji’s  bed  and  he  refreshed  him¬ 
self  by  washing  his  face  and  hands;  met  and  chatted 
with  all  those  present  and  went  to  bed  at  almost  1 1-30 
p.m. 

I  was  dead  tired.  I  took  a  bath  therefore  im¬ 
mediately  after  I  finished  rubbing  him  oil  and  pressing 
his  legs  when  he  lay  down  to  rest.  Then  I  checked 
the  luggage  and  made  preparations  for  the  morning, 
such  as  crushing  the  end  of  a  tooth-stick  for  Bapuji. 
Next  I  did  other  sundry  work  and  finished  my  diary. 
I  dropped  my  evening  meal  as  I  was  thoroughly 
fagged  out.  It  is  now  10  minutes  to  1  a.m.  and  I  am 
going  to  sleep.  Nirmalda  is  still  awake.  His  work 
always  continues  far  into  the  night. 

Khadi  Pratishthan, 
Sodepur  (Calcutta), 
4-3-’47 

We  got  up  at  the  usual  prayer  time.  During  his 
inquiry  as  to  when  I  had  gone  to  sleep,  Bapuji  said, 
“Don’t  you  suppose  we  have  bid  good-bye  to  the 
Noakhali  spirit.  Not  at  all.  Only  the  mode  of  our 
journey  will  be  of  a  different  type.  Quite  possibly 


270 


THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 


our  work  may  increase.  Al]  the  same  there  should  be 
no  laxity  in  the  observance  of  the  rules  we  used  to  keep 
in  Noakhali.  Our  dedicated  selfless  service  is  now  no 
longer  confined  within  the  limits  of  Noakhali.  I  am 
resolved  to  do  or  die  in  the  attempt  to  restore  complete 
communal  harmony  and  to  cultivate  humaneness  in 
my  countrymen.  That  is  why  the  purer  your  penance 
and  mine  be,  the  greater  will  be  their  elevating  in¬ 
fluence.  I  should  not  wonder  if  my  work  in  Bihar 
turns  out  to  be  even  tougher  and  more  testing  than  in 
Noakhali.  It  is  sometimes  very  difficult  to  set  things 
right  when  one’s  own  men  have  made  mess  of  them. 
From  the  report  of  Bihar,  as  given  to  me,  I  am  afraid 
that  my  work  there  will  be  even  more  taxing  and 
heavier  than  it  was  in  Noakhali.  So  you  are  to  be 
extremely  alert  and  strict  with  yourself.  I  shall  be 
happy. only  if  you  are  as  precise  and  regular  as  before 
with  regard  to  your  food,  work,  rest  etc.” 

Thus  he  took  the  first  opportunity  early  at  3-45 
a.m.  to  warn  me,  as  I  was  late  to  bed  last  night,  never 
to  be  irregular  and  negligent  in  anything. 

After  the  prayers  he  read  my  diary.  Giving  him 
honey  in  warm  water,  I  went  inside  to  prepare  the 
fruit-juice  for  him.  In  the  meanwhile,  Bapuji  wrote 
down  his  Bengali  lesson.  Today  he  went  one  better 
and  was  learning  to  speak  in  Bengali;  when  I  came 
back  to  him  with  the  glass  of  juice,  he  asked  me 
in  Bengali  “Tomar  nam  ki?”  (What’s  your  name?) 
and  burst  out  into  a  laugh.  He  is  now  quite  at  home 
in  writing  first  ten  numerals  in  Bengali. 

At  7-30  he  went  out  for  a  walk.  Other  ladies 
were  to  be  his  ‘human  sticks’  this  time  and  as  I  had 
some  work  to  dispose  off,  I  did  not  accompany  him. 
But  Bapuji  was  sorry  and  disappointed.  When  I  was 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL  271 

washing  his  feet  he  chided  me:  “What  difference 
oes  it  make  if  you  have  not  to  be  my  stick?  You 
should  not  on  that  account  have  dropped  your  morning 
walk.  It  too  is  an  integral  part  of  your  service  to  me. 
am  sorry  that  you  didn’t  take  that  exercise  today, 
shall  be  happy  now  if  you  give  up  my  massage  today 
and  spend  the  time  in  a  walk.”  “No,  no!  Not  your 
massage  at  any  rate!”  I  demurred: 

Well,  then,  said  Bapuji,  “I  shall  have  to  be 
content  if  you  run  about  some  distance  when  I  use  the 

commode;  but  to  give  up  the  morning  constitutional 
altogether  is  a  sin.” 

I  agreed  to  this  compromise,  and  did  as  I  was  told. 
That  shows  how  very  particular  Bapuji  is  about  re¬ 
gularity  in  all  matters. 

At  8-45  p.m.  Shaheed  Suhrawardy  Saheb,  the 
Chief  Minister  came  here,  for  an  interview.  It  lasted 
up  to  10-15.  The  massage  had  to  wait  till  then.  Suhra- 
wardi  Saheb  monopolized  the  talk  and  gave  little  time 
to  Bapuji  to  have  his  say.  He  is  a  very  shrewd  man. 
After  this  long  delay,  it  was  more  mere  oil-rubbing  than 
a  massage;  I  had  to  hurry  so  much  through  it!  Bapuji 
also  felt  that  Suhrawardy  Saheb  deliberately  evaded 
the  issues  and  never  got  down  to  brass  Jtacks.  Sadly 

Bapuji  observed,  “The  future  seems  dark.  God’s  will 
be  done.” 

At  12  noon  Bapuji  was  ready  for  his  meal.  He 
took  nothing  but  vegetable,  milk  and  a  few  raisins  and 
continued  at  the  same  time  his  talks  with  Kakasaheb. 

There  was  no  end  to  people  coming  for  Bapuji’s 
darshan .  Late  at  2  p.m.  I  iound  time  to  have  my  bath 
after  finishing  my  morning  work.  Dr.  Kuluranjanbabu, 
a  naturopath,  visited  Bapuji  as  he  seems  to  have 


272  THE  LONELY  PILGRIM 

developed  a  slight  deafness.  The  doctor  showed  me 
a  special  sponge-treatment  for  the  ear. 

Bapuji  then  wrote  a  few  letters  and  his  diaiy. 
On  my  going  very  late  to  bed  last  night  Bapuji  wrote : 

“As  for  Manudi  ...  she  has  not  yet  outgrown  the 
immature  thinking  of  an  adolescent  girl.  It  is  very  necessary 
that  she  should  gain  an  adult’s  wisdom.  I  for  one  do  hope 
that  she  will  get  it  in  a  very  short  time.  She  is  very  simple, 
guileless  and  easily  duped;  but  me  she  serves  very  well  and 
ardently.  She  has  simply  lost  herself  in  service  to  me.  She 
is  however  careless  about  her  food  and  rest  and  loses  health. 
That  is  what  pains  me.  .  .  .  Except  for  that  she  has  been 
giving  me  very  good  satisfaction# 

When  I  read  all  this  I  was  really  astonished  to 
find  that  Bapuji  closely  attends  to  all  matters  con¬ 
cerning  me !  “I  don’t  like  your  reference  to  me  in  your 
diary,”  I  objected.  “It’s  an  open  book  for  everyone 

to  read.55 

“Where’s  the  harm?”  asked  Bapuji.  “Let  s  appear 
to  the  world  just  as  we  are.  Only  then  is  any  pro¬ 
gress  in  life  possible.  There  should  be  no  word  like 
‘private’  in  your  dictionary.  Are  we  thieves  that  we 
should  hide  anything  from  the  public?” 

This  torrent  swept  away  my  desire  to  reply  back. 
Before  going  to  the  evening  prayer  meeting,  Bapuji 
took  his  meal  —  only  fruits  and  milk  —  and  I  dispatched 
to  the  Howrah  station,  in  a  truck,  all  packages,  counted 

and  checked. 

There  was  a  huge  crowd  at  the  prayer  meeting. 
Bapuji  explained  to  the  audience  his  reasons  for  going 
to  Bihar  and  appealed  to  them  to  cultivate  communal 
harmony.  When  the  meeting  ended,  he  had  a  s ti  oil 
for  about  10  minutes. 


THE  FIERY  ORDEAL 


273 


Exactly  at  7-30  p.m.  we  started  from  Sodepur. 
The  scene  of  the  vast  gathering  of  human  beings  sway¬ 
ing  at  the  Howrah  station  and  eager  for  Bapuji’s 
darshan  beggars  description.  And  there  was  a  regular 
invasion  by  an  army  of  photographers  who  shot  at 
us  with  their  cameras.  Their  flash-lights  dazzled  our 
eyes  often  and  often,  but  we  were  bound  to  bear  with  it 
all  in  view  of  their  overflowing  love.  Immediately 
Bapuji  seized  opportunity  and  did  a  roaring  trade 
by  starting  collection  for  the  Harijan  fund.  Coins  of 
all  denominations — pice,  annas,  two-anna  pieces, 
quarter,  half  and  whole  rupees  as  well  as  currency 
notes — rained  upon  him.  Quite  a  heap  of  them  soon 
piled  up  in  his  hands.  But  nearly  every  one  made  it 
a  point  to  give  his  donation  to  Bapuji  alone.  Our 
hands,  though  outstretched,  were  almost  empty.  A 
big  lot  of  loose  coins  has  accumulated  for  counting; 
but  that  I  will  do  tomorrow  at  Patna.  Just  now  it  is 
10  p.m.  I  am  completing  my  diary  at  Burdwan  station. 
Bapuji  is  sleeping  soundly.  At  Nirmalda’s  successful 
persuasion,  people  are  quietly  getting  Bapuji’s 
darshan  and  all  is  silence  and  peace. 


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age  of  fourteen.  The  present  publication  will  help 
elucidate  to  all  concerned,  the  larger  and  more  funda¬ 
mental  questions  involved  in  this  matter. 

Pages  vi,  160  Price  Re.  1.50  Postage  etc.  0.30 

BY  DR.  ISHWARA  TO  PA 

ETHOS  OF  NON-VIOLENCE 

This  brochure  undertakes  to  give  a  seemingly 
full  picture  of  non-violence  as  preached  and  practised 
by  Gandhiji,  for  a  long  period  of  more  than  sixty 
years  in  all  its  conceivable  aspects  and  with  all  its 
implications. 

Pages  iv,  152  Price  Rs.  2.00  Postage  etc.  0.30 

Navajivan  Trust,  Ahmedabad-14